Lakers impressed but not worried
DALLAS -- Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson was not happy.
The Mavericks wanted to show the Lakers just how much better they've become since a seven-player two-team trade brought them three players.
Jackson wanted his team to make a statement, despite playing for the second time in two nights.
At the end of a loud Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center, the Mavericks prevailed in beating the Lakers, 101-96.
One of the missing pieces of the trade the Mavericks wanted to display was Caron Butler, but he sat out the game after having a bad reaction to medication earlier in the day.
So what did the Lakers think of the new Mavericks? They were impressed.
But, "he wasn't happy by the way we played," Lakers forward Pau Gasol said of Jackson after scoring 11 points in 32 minutes. "We let this one get away from us. It's more our fault than their credit in this case. They made plays and they made shots, but we always allow them to come back in the game."
The stat sheet will say the Mavericks outrebounded the Lakers, 41-36, and took 10 more free throws. Jackson, to avoid a potential fine by the NBA, didn't want to go in-depth about what his inner thoughts were on those numbers.
Kobe Bryant, in his second game back after missing the previous five because of an ankle injury, scored 20 points but took 23 shots. Bryant was smothered by new Mavericks guard DeShawn Stevenson and then by forward Shawn Marion.
Derek Fisher missed 10 shots and overall the Lakers couldn't make the big shots down the stretch, as they did the previous night in Memphis, Tenn.
The Lakers, however, made a point of saying they had another chance to steal a victory.
Bryant scored on a drive to bring his team to within three with 57 seconds to play. Marion missed a layup to set the Lakers up for a shot to tie the score.
Bryant missed a 3-point attempt, taken with 19 seconds left on the shot clock. Terry then made two free throws to seal the victory.
As Terry walked off the court afterward, he had a few words for Bryant, who just smiled.
"We played this team pretty well the last nine games. Played them extremely well," Bryant said in an empty locker room. "They wanted to come in here and end that and [to] put a stop to that they played with a lot of energy and a lot of hunger and came out with a win."
Still the Lakers feel they are the better team.
As the Lakers headed home, their No. 1 seeding in the Western Conference remained secure as the team holds a five-game lead over Denver, 5 1/2 over Utah and six over Dallas.
The moves the Mavericks made have allowed them to get more physical up front with Brendan Haywood (who grabbed four offensive rebounds) and Stevenson.
Bryant couldn't get free from Stevenson in the first half and it forced him to work harder for shots. After missing his first five from the field, all jumpers, Bryant ended the first half three for 11.
When asked about Stevenson's aggression, Bryant smiled and said, "He did a good job."
Butler, a former Laker, is a physical player who likes to give guards and small forward fits by driving to the lane to draw fouls. Jackson and Bryant said they were looking forward to seeing him.
However, as happy as the Lakers are for the Mavericks making moves to go forward in the West, they're not worried.
"They are trying to get better," said Ron Artest, who scored 13 points in 41 minutes. "I don't know about the moves they made. It's just going to be up to us doing what we got to do and not worry about what they do or what they're doing."
Calvin Watkins is a reporter for ESPN Dallas.