The Lamar Odom Reclamation Project enjoyed three successful phases on Tuesday night. Phase One -- He played. After Mavs coach Rick Carlisle slapped a "DNP, Coach's Decision" on Odom last week, just playing can no longer be taken for granted.
Phase Two -- Attire. The power forward was smart enough to play to what was becoming a hostile home crowd by playing to his audience against the Rockets. Lam Lam sported an all-white head band, much like fan favorite Jason Terry.
Phase Three -- Production. Odom played well. Or better. For one of the few times this season Odom played aggressively and looked like a guy who could help the Mavs rather than be a missing link, not to mention inspire cheers rather than boos from the home crowd.
As Dirk Nowitzki was unable to find his shooting touch from anywhere but the free-throw line, Odom and his bench friends provided the necessary scoring from the floor in the Dallas Mavericks' 90-81 win against the Houston Rockets at American Airlines Center.
"I am finally getting to the point where I am getting my second wind," said Odom after he scored nine points on five shots with four rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block. "I can count on my body. I'm trying to put a couple of games together like this."
From the moment he stepped off the bench the crowd responded to Odom differently and cheered every time he touched the ball. He responded in the first quarter with a dunk on a feed from Terry that stopped what had been a stink bomb opening quarter from the Mavs. The team trailed 26-10 before Odom's dunk.
The entire building felt like it was itching to see this guy turn his game around, like cheering for the little kid to catch up to the rest of the group.
"When I checked into the game it was a little different. I think they understand me and where I am coming from. Nobody wants it as bad as me," he said. "This is my life. Life's hard, dude. We all go through things, and I'm not going to complain."
Odom's play was consistent with a bench that was the difference in the game. With Nowitzki shooting 5 of 17 from the floor, and no other starter in double figures, someone else had to score. Between Odom, Terry, Roddy Beaubois and Brandan Wright, the Mavs' bench outscored the Rockets' reserves 48-17.
As well as Beaubois and Wright played, it was Odom's energy and flow that captivated the audience. Whether it was a dunk, a drive at the basket, a rebound and leading the ball up the court, a pass or a block, in about 23 minutes Odom showed what being Lamar Odom can mean to a basketball team. If he could be this, it gives the Mavs a potential serious matchup problem for other teams.
"He played his game. That's how he plays," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "We needed a lift and he was one of several guys that gave it to us. Fifteen games doesn't sound like a long time, but it's almost one quarter of the season. It's obvious that we need him and everybody else."
Whatever problems befall the Mavericks today or in the future, they have come to find their friends in Houston to be a reliable support network. For only the third time in 21 games this season the Mavs won a game in which they trailed by double digits. The Mavs held the Rockets to just 12 third-quarter points, pretty much doing them in. Tuesday night was the second win in four days for the Mavs against the Rockets and pushed the club's winning streak in this series to six.
And however awful the Mavs played around the All-Star break with a 2-8 record, they have somewhat righted themselves. The Mavs have won six of their last eight to effectively quiet any no-playoffs panic talk as they prepare to play in Miami and Orlando in the next two games.
As bad as the Mavs have looked this season in games against the Lakers, Spurs, Heat, Nets and a few others, they continue to do just enough to remain "around it" when they play as they did against the Rockets on Tuesday.
Carlisle sounds like a man, however, who does not see a team that has found a consistent level of energy or production yet.
"We're showing some good signs in some areas -- our second half was tremendous," he said. "Our first half, we played like a lottery-type team. We've got work to do, and I don't mind that."
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