Dwight Howard started the game slowly, looking lost in the new Princeton offense early, but settled in once the Lakers began to look to him as the primary scorer on offense. When Los Angeles failed to get the offense going, they dumped it down to Howard, who was being guarded by Elton Brand or Eddy Curry. Howard finished with 17 points and 10 boards, Steve Nash had 7 points and 4 assists, and Pau Gasol put up 23 and 13.
Put simply, the game was lost at the free throw line. The Lakers shot an abysmal 39% from the stripe, going 12-31. Dwight Howard made 3 of 14 from the free throw line and Jordan Hill went 1-6. This could become a serious problem for the Lakers, as defenders who aren’t strong enough to stop Howard will just hack away at Dwight and send him to the line. If the Lakers hit 10 more free throws against the Mavs, they go 70% from the line (which isn’t great either) and win the game.
The Lakers bench, which was the main point of concern all preseason, looked strong early but faded as the Mavericks bench came alive in the second half. The Dallas bench outscored the Lakers 37-17. Vince Carter and Roddy Beaubois had 11 points each, and Jae Crowder had 8. The Mavs looked dangerous, even without their two big men, Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman. Dallas was the more athletic team and their aggressiveness was too much for the Lakers starting five, much less their bench.
It’s the first game for the shiny new Lakers, and it was expected that they’d have some growing pains along the way, so a loss isn’t surprising. However, a loss to a team that is missing arguably their two best players is. Regardless, the Lakers are 0-1 to start the season for the second straight year. They won’t have much time to mourn the loss as they are traveling north to play in Portland tomorrow night against the Trail Blazers.
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