Like it or not, this season's Lakers are a second half team. In what is becoming a pattern, L.A. turned a close game at the half into a victory going away, as they defeated the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center by a final score of 114-107.
Dallas put up 57 first half points - against a Lakers team that continues to dream of being known as a defense first club -- and led by six at the break. The Mavericks extended their lead to 12 late in the third quarter at 78-67, but the Lakers ended the period on a 13-0 run, taking a two-point lead into the fourth. L.A. never trailed the rest of the way, and extended their lead to as many as 11 before settling on the final margin of seven points.
Kobe Bryant's offensive services were needed tonight, and he came through as Laker fans have come to expect. After not shooting too well over the last couple of games, Kobe finished with 35 points, six rebounds, and five assists, while shooting an efficient 14-of-26 from the field. Andrew Bynum, who was listed as questionable with a foot injury, started and didn't seem to be adversely affected. Bynum finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while blocking two shots and shooting 50% from the field.
For the Lakers' bench, it was a tale of two halves. In the first half, L.A. got only two points from their bench, but in the second half, they got 23, thanks in large part to a huge game from Trevor Ariza, who chipped in 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting.
Defensively, it's clear that the Lakers have some work to do. They allowed Dallas to shoot 51% for the game, and to connect on almost 45% of their three-point attempts. The thing about this Lakers team though is, they can outscore you if necessary, or they can lock you up defensively (if only for a quarter or two). Eventually, L.A. will face an opponent that will require them putting together four solid quarters of basketball instead of just one or two. But based on their upcoming schedule, it will be a while. So as long as they can put together a big second half run like they've done the last couple of games, they're likely to end up in the victory column. Even though there's plenty of things that need improvement if the team is to get back to competing at a championship level.