The Mavs return home tonight to play the Los Angeles Lakers. They have taken four of the last five meetings with them and haven't lost to the Lakers at home since December of 2005. After winning 17 of 20 this season, the Lakers have lost two of their last three games and play the second game of a two-game road trip through Texas tonight.
Things were going smoothly...
The Lakers were the top team in the NBA not long ago, which hasn't happened in several years. Kobe Bryant had found the support he'd been whining so much about wanting by way of the burgeoning success of young Andrew Bynum. Then, 11 days ago, in a game against Memphis, Bynum suffered a bone bruise and subluxation of the knee cap when he stepped on teammate Lamar Odom's foot and is expected to miss at least 8 weeks. Bynum provided the strong center that is so crucial to the triangle offense, which is a large reason why Kobe Bryant's scoring numbers are down a little this year. He wasn't having to do as much by himself. Now, with Bynum out, Kwame Brown and Ronny Turiaf are getting more minutes and will try and fill in Bynum's absence as best they can.
Speaking of Kobe
His scoring may be down by more than 4 points per game from last year and 8 points from two years ago, but by no means does this mean he's slipping. His steals, three-point percentage and rebounding are up from last year, likely because opposing teams have had their hands full trying to contain Bynum down low. And, in the end, winning is the ultimate statistic when judging a player's performance, and Kobe has been leading his team to much more of that.
Big offense, little defense
It's not like they're the Golden State Warriors or anything, but the Lakers' scoring offense is third in the league while their defense sits at 22nd. They are scoring 107.5 points per game while only allowing 101.5 points per game. They will get to the free-throw line a lot, but their free-throw percentage is usually pretty middle-of-the-road. With Bynum out, it should free up the Maverick defense to pay more attention to Kobe and monitor their cutters a little more closely.
Random useless fact
Ronny Turiaf is fluent on five languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian and Creole.
How well can the Lakers tread water with Andrew Bynum out?
-Scooter Hendon, Hoops Nerd