HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Jason Terry and Steve Blake, are ready for the playoffs.
Matt Barnes, Brendan Haywood and Shannon Brown seem more than ready for the grind as well.
In fact, the crowd and everyone else affiliated with the Lakers and Mavericks looked like they were in postseason form from what we saw in the Lakers’ crucial 110-82 blowout win over the Mavericks at Staples Center on TNT last night.
All five of those players were ejected early in an intense game that was marked by rising tensions on and off the floor and even more verbal drama after the game was over.
Even Lakers coach Phil Jackson and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban are in a playoff lather. Cuban, as only he can do, poked at the Lakers Wednesday when he indicated that the Mavericks would be fine with Lakers forward Ron Artest making the decisions in triangle offense:
“Anything that puts the ball in Ron Artest’s hands is always a good thing,” he told reporters. “… Of all the choices you have on that team, you want Ron Artest making the decisions in the triangle.”
In defending Artest, among other things he did after the game, Jackson had this rather colorful response directed at Cuban:
“I know that Mark likes to prick the skin of people. But he’s not a player. He just sits behind the bench with his suntanned face and has to make comments like that. He’s got nothing to do with it. I know that he’s provided a great roster that’s almost as good as money can buy. But not quite.”
You can’t make this stuff up!
You also can’t manufacture genuine disdain for an opponent, which these two teams have for more than one reason. Last night’s game was a must-have for both teams.
The Lakers bowed up to the challenge, looking every bit like the rugged, two-time defending champs that they are while the Mavericks looked less than ready for the rough and tumble nature of this contest — which included five ejections, three technical fouls and an array of statement-making moments.
While we won’t go as far as TNT’s Chris Webber did in using the dreaded “S” word on a team that has the fourth best record in the entire league, we can understand where some of that chatter comes from after seeing the Mavericks get pushed around the way they did by the Lakers.
The Lakers bullied the Mavericks inside and out, playing a much more physical brand of basketball than their guests. Mavericks center Tyson Chandler offered a sobering perspective, particularly for Mavericks fans, to reporters after the game when he pointed out the obvious and essentially agreed with the assessment of Webber (and Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, who recently tweaked his team about being soft):
“We’ve just got to get tougher. I don’t mean throwing punches. I mean basketball-wise. We’ve just got to play hard basketball. I felt like in the first quarter we came out and were playing tough. As each quarter went, I felt like we had little drop-offs. Obviously in the middle of the third and the fourth, we were just done. We weren’t running hard. We weren’t setting good picks, making them make decisions defensively by our offense. We just allowed them to set up and be the Lakers.”
Being the Lakers these days means winning 16 of your last 17 games since the All-Star break, chasing the Spurs for that top spot in the Western Conference and home court advantage throughout the playoffs and wiping away whatever dirt was on your shoulder from earlier this season, when folks were questioning whether or not this team had the mettle to mount yet another title run after three straight trips to the final day of the season.
If nothing else, it’s clear that Kobe Bryant has his crew ready for the playoff push a few games early!