Is this happening?
Did the Mavericks just beat the Lakers two games in a row? On the road? In the playoffs?
And was it a JJ Barea led 4th quarter that clinched the win in game two? Yes, that JJ Barea.
The Mavericks defeated the Lakers Wednesday night 93-81 in stunning fashion.
Dirk Nowitzki has outplayed Kobe Bryant through two games, scoring 24 points and adding 7 rebounds. Ron Artest wanted the challenge of guarding Dirk and Dirk obliged by absolutely abusing him throughout the game. But it's his defense that's been the most surprising. It's hard to believe but, Dirk hasn't been doing anything special on defense but, he's made Gasol and Odom work on the offensive end. He's not allowing either of them to bully him inside and his tenacity on the boards has allowed the Mavericks to neutralize the Lakers' advantage on the boards. The Lakers were only able to outrebound the Mavericks by four and five rebounds through the first two games.
Chandler has helped keep the rebounding deficit manageable by staying out of trouble for the second straight game but, it was Brendan Haywood who made his impact felt on Wednesday. Haywood gave the Mavericks 17 excellent minutes off the bench by attacking the board and playing excellent defense around the basket. he ended up with eight rebounds, four offensive rebounds and three blocked shots. He gave the Mavericks exactly what they thought they were getting last summer and it needs to continue if the Mavericks are to advance in this series.
The Mavericks bench continued to show why they are the best bench in the league by outscoring the Lakers bench 30-12. Jason Terry only went 3/12 on the offensive end but continued to play excellent defense. But it was JJ Barea who provided the spark for the Mavericks in the fourth quarter to effectively seal the game. Barea was mesmerizing, running the pick and roll to perfection with Nowitzki on his way to 12 points and four assists. His penetration destroyed the Lakers inside and it was an absolute joy to watch.
Unless you're Ron Artest. After being thoroughly embarrassed by Barea in the fourth quarter, Artest decided it would be a good idea to clothesline Barea with 24 seconds left in the game. He was immediately ejected from the game and could face a suspension heading into game three pending a league review. Artest really showed toughness in those final seconds. I mean, a 6'7, 270 pound player clotheslining a 5'10, 170 player? Message sent, Ron. Message sent.
From a Lakers perspective, Andrew Bynum scored 18 points on 8-11 shooting and it was perplexing why the Lakers went away from him in game two. The key advantage the Lakers had in this series was their size and while it's still apparent at times, they have failed to expose that mismatch through two games. If the Lakers want to get back in to this series, increasing Bynum's touches will be pivotal. Especially considering the struggles of Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. The pair combined to shoot 2/24 from the field and both looked lost on the offensive end. That needs to change in a hurry for the Lakers.The three point shooting for the Lakers has been absolutely atrocious for the Lakers. They went 2-20 on Wednesday night and while that likely won't continue, they don't possess any sharpshooters that can easily correct this problem. Kobe Bryant has still been able to produce offensively but, here's an interesting nugget via Hoopdata.
Kobe has attempted 49 field goals in two games, with just one single lay-up among them and only two shots inside 10 feet away.
And believe it or not, that has more to do with the Mavericks' defense than anything. The rotations have been outstanding and each defender had harassed Kobe from the top of the arc and not allowed him to penetrate. Of course, Kobe is such a good shooter that he's still making a good amount of those shot but I'd rather take my chances with Kobe shooting jumpers than Kobe attacking the rim. Every single time.
The Mavericks have now won 3 straight playoff road games for the first time in team history. They have held every opponent under 100 points in the playoffs and have beaten the defending champions twice on their home floor. Nobody expected this, except, maybe, Charles Barkley. The Mavericks will be giving away blue t-shirts for a "royal blue out" and the atmosphere should be absolutely electric at the AAC.
Game three is Friday night at 8:30.