In exactly one day, the Lakers' issues apparently vanished. Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol cracked double digits again. Kobe Bryant found his shooting stroke after a rare off night. The Lakers actually showed up on defense.
Suddenly, the effort to pick up their first road win of the season hardly seemed daunting. The Lakers' 115-89 victory Saturday over the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Arena became all but official right from the beginning, a well needed win to improve the Lakers' 1-4 road record and avoid their worst road start since the Lakers went 0-6 in the 1993-94 season.
"Back home, probably everybody was tripping out and panicking and things like that," Bryant said. "But this is what happens. It's about figuring those things out."
This marks a case of the Lakers, for better or worse, always staying unpredictable. Bryant scored 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting, but he took exactly zero field-goal attempts in the first quarter in hopes of improving team balance.
Metta World Peace largely benefited from such an approach. He scored 16 of his 19 points in the first quarter and suddenly became the team's most lethal outside shooter by going 5 of 7 from 3-point range.
"We didn't put all the pressure on Kobe to take on the opponent," World Peace said. "He didn't put the pressure on himself. We have a really good team. So when we play together, we can wear other teams out."
No one epitomized that
more than Howard and Gasol. After their subpar effort and conditioning the past two games sparked discussion on how they will fit in Mike D'Antoni's pick-and-roll offense, Gasol and Howard combined for 28 points on a 11-of-22 clip and 16 rebounds.
"I was a little more comfortable and ran the floor better," Gasol said. "I put myself in a position where I can be more effective and get different kind of shots, not always 16- and 17-foot shots."
The Lakers' bench also appeared to have forged an identity. Antawn Jamison had 19 points, marking the second consecutive game he was in double figures. Jodie Meeks scored 11 points on a 3-of-5 clip from 3-point range, the second time in three games he shot better than 50 percent from behind the arc.
And the Lakers actually defended in holding Dallas to 37 percent shooting.
It also helped the Mavericks have played without Dirk Nowitzki all season. He's recovering from right knee surgery.
"We have to play defense if we want to win a championship," Howard said.
The Lakers (7-7) made better steps in showing those qualities against Dallas (7-7).
The Lakers' 115 points finally fit the quota D'Antoni outlined to his players before season where he expected the team to score at least 110-115 points per game. The Lakers conceded the fewest points this season and showed they can play defense after all under D'Antoni's system. And Gasol sat out the entire fourth quarter, albeit under different circumstances.
That's far different than what the Lakers recently encountered. In the previous three games under D'Antoni, the Lakers failed to crack the 100-point barrier. The Lakers also allowed at least 100 pints in two of those contests. And Gasol sat out the fourth quarter against Memphis because of D'Antoni's disappointment in his play.
Instead of weathering the latest soap opera, however, the Lakers enjoyed a rare sense of calmness. It couldn't have come at a more needed time.
"It was a good win, but I'm not ecstatic," D'Antoni said. "You can't keep losing, obviously. But we should kind of expect this every night."
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