LOS ANGELES – It was much of the same for the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night as they fell 120-106 to the Dallas Mavericks behind a near triple-double effort by All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo.
Rondo led the charge for the Mavericks with 11 points, 11 assists, and eight rebounds. Tyson Chandler had 20 points and nine rebounds. Dirk Nowitzki chipped in with 16 points.
The Lakers trailed throughout the majority of the first half and drew as close as three points in the first quarters, but Mavericks held a 62-57 lead at the break. Dallas held a 32-20 edge in points in the paint, and were 14-of-17 from the free throw line in the first half.
Dallas maintained a comfortable lead in the third quarter with the Lakers, and expanded on that margin in the fourth quarter to as much as 18 points. They controlled all aspects of the game with an edge in rebounding (42-37), points in the paint (54-38), and fast break points (14-11).
Clarkson finished with a game-high 26 points and six assists. Jabari Brown had 18 points. Wesley Johnson had 16 points in the first half, but was unable to play in the second half due to a moderate left ankle sprain. Tarik Black had a double-double with a career-high 19 rebounds and 10 points.
It marked just the second time in franchise history that the Mavericks have swept the Lakers in a season series. Here are five things we learned from Sunday’s loss:
Clarkson steps to challenge
It was another game against one of the best point guards in the league with Sunday’s matchup against Rondo, and he played quite well notching game-best 26 points and six assists.
The rookie struggled to shoot from the field in the opening quarter going 2-of-7 from the field for four points and dished an assist. Clarkson continued to be aggressive in the second quarter with his shot as he had two drives to the basket for a layup and a two-handed slam.
In the second half, Clarkson caught fire a bit offensively scoring seven points in the third quarter making three out of his first four shot attempts in the period. This included a floater and a pull-up 3-pointer. He also had a strong fourth quarter that he scored 11 points on 2-of-3 shooting with a perfect 5-of-5 from the free throw line.
Overall, itt was an encouraging performance from Clarkson especially against one of the top tier point guards in the game in Rondo. However, he did have his fair share of problems defensively against the four-time All-star.
“He wasn’t bad, he got a little careless a couple of times with the ball,” Head coach Byron Scott said. “Overall, he wasn’t bad. If you look at his numbers, they were pretty good, but I got on him a couple of times about running the team. He’s got to be a little more vocal at times. Defensively, he did a good job of laying off of Rondo and trying to help.”
For Clarkson, it was a game that was a reminder that he has to bring it every single night in the NBA.
“[I get challenged] all the time. My position is knowing myself so I think, ‘shoot, I have to bring my A game every night,” Clarkson said, who had his third 20-plus point performance in his last four games. “If I don’t then you get exposed.”
That said, his counterpart was quite impressed by his performance in the loss.
“He played really well tonight,” Rondo said. “He shot the ball well and played under control. He did as best as he could to try to lead this team to a victory.”
With the season winding down, the last two games will be a couple more opportunities for Clarkson to gain valuable experience before the offseason.
It was a game that had Rondo’s fingerprints all over it as he notched a near triple-double with 11 points, 11 assists, and eight rebounds.
Rondo was aggressive from the onset with shot with six points on 3-of-5 shooting, quickly got into foul trouble after he picked a pair of fouls while guarding Ryan Kelly. He remained offensively active in the second quarter hitting a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws.
In the second half, Rondo reverted back to his pass-first ways by dishing out five assists and also grabbed four rebounds in the third quarter. He continued to find his teammates in the fourth quarter with some bounce passes and had an impressive behind-the-back pass to Raymond Felton for a 3-pointer.
The four-time All-Star was able to pick apart the Lakers’ defense at will, and kept them at bay all throughout the second half.
“He was making passes that were crazy,” Black said. “The floor was wide open for him, and his player were playing off him very well. Once he gets going, once he gets to throwing that ball around, it’s tough. It’s going to be a tough game and we know that.”
Ultimately, what Sunday’s performance by Rondo serviced as well another reminder to Lakers’ fans of what could potentially lie ahead of them this offseason.
The 29-year-old is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and the Lakers could be a realistic landing spot. However, with much still in flux with the Lakers. and the Mavericks still competing for a championship a lot could change.
Brown steps up
A game after notching 20 points and a career-best seven assists, Brown once again excelled in a starter’s role scoring 18 points despite shooting 4-of-13 from the field.
It was an off-shooting night for the rookie guard, but he continued to look for his shot and his aggressive as he had nine free throw attempts in the game.
After scoring eight points in the first half, he was most effective in the third quarter with nine points in the period that helped keep Los Angeles within striking distances. He tailed off in the fourth quarter as he scored just one point on o-of-2 shooting in the period. It was the seventh time in the past nine games that he has reached the double-digit mark in scoring.
Since joining the Lakers, Brown has been a bright spot and Scott has continued to show high praise for the rookie guard as stated prior to the game that he has “definitely shown he can play in this league, and continues to make a good impression on his head coach.
“The one thing I didn’t know is that he can get to basket,” Scott said. “I thought he was strictly a catch-and-shot type of guy, but if he gets the ball in the open court with space he has a knack for getting to the rim and free throw line. I also didn’t know he was as a good a passer as he is as well.”
In the two games left in the season things could become interesting for he and Clarkson as the Lakers are now down to just two healthy guards on the roster. This could lead to the team being more dependent on both young guards, and in turn provide them a bigger opportunity to contribute in extended minutes.
Buycks breaks hand, season over
With Lin out once again, Buycks assumed a large role off the bench as he notched 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting with two assists in 24 minutes played.
Buycks was relatively aggressive on offense in the first half as he scored six points on 2-of-4 shooting, and had one assist. He was only able to score four points on 2-of-7 shooting in the final two quarters of play. However, all that was put to a halt as he suffered a fractured right hand in the loss that will effective end his season with the team.
His injury now puts the Lakers backcourt at just two players healthy guards in Brown and Clarkson for the final two games of the season. This will likely mean that Los Angeles will have to call up a player from the D-league or sign a free agent to finish the year.
What is most devastating about the injury is that Buycks was in the last day of his 10-day contract that he signed with the team. He was expected to sign a multi-year non-guaranteed contract with the team prior to the injury, but now future with the team is up in the air more than ever before.
In six games played with the Lakers, Buycks averaged 8.6 points, 2.5 assists, and 2.o rebounds in 20.7 minutes per game. This included notching a career-best six assists against the Minnesota Timberwolves in Friday night’s win.
Lin’s season done
Jeremy Lin‘s time with the Lakers could be up as he declared out for the final three games of the season by Scott prior to Sunday’s game due to persistent knee soreness.
He had missed the last two games because of issue, and with no improvement and a limited practice on Saturday it was decided that the 26-year-old sit out the remainder of the season.
With Lin out of the lineup for the last three games of the year, expect Los Angeles to once again turn to Jabari Brown, who is averaging 9.9 points in 16 games played with the team, to start the final three games. It will also likely mean that the Lakers will sign Dwight Buycks through the final two games of the season.
Scott and Lin did differ on their point of view of how the point guard position is ran, but the Lakers head coach did see steady improvement from Lin throughout the season.
“I think he has obviously gotten better,” Scott said. “I think he first got here his mind of what a point guard is was totally different than mine. As we go along we started to understand what I wanted from him from a day-to-day basis. I thought the progression was much better, and obviously we’re not happy about the way it ended because I thought he made big times strides for us.”
What Scott did appreciate most about Lin was that his willingness to take criticism constructively.
“One thing about him is that the kid takes criticism,” Scott said. “You can jump on his about things, takes them with a grain of salt, and tries to get better. That’s one thing that I do love about him. He doesn’t pout and he doesn’t cry. He just tries to implement the things you give him, and try to become a better basketball player.”
If Lin’s time in a Lakers’ uniform is up, it had been a frustrating one season with the team as he averaged 11.2 points and 4.6 assists in 74 games played. He had began the season with the starting point guard job, but lost it 19 games in the season due to what Scott deemed as inconsistent play on both ends of the court.
Although he struggled initially, Lin did pick up his level of play following the All-Star break he averaged 13.6 points and 4.6 assists per game. This included scoring a season-high 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting in the Lakers 101-87 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on March 22.
With Lin entering the offseason as an unrestricted free agent, it in all likelihood spell the end of his days as a Laker.
Bob Garcia IV
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