LOS ANGELES — Lakers sixth man Lamar Odom is doing everything you’d expect of the NBA’s Sixth Man Award winner. But he is, after all, just one man.
And right now he’s fighting a battle against a Mavericks’ bench crew that is deeper and more dynamic than what the Lakers can handle. It’s also a crew that has been much more productive than anyone might have imagined they’d be through the first two games of this Western Conference semifinal series.
Mavericks’ reserves Jason Terry, Jose Barea, Peja Stojakovic, Corey Brewer and Brendan Haywood have totally outplayed the Lakers’ reserves, led by Odom and including Shannon Brown, Matt Barnes and Steve Blake. The Mavs have outscored them 70-37 so far, with Odom accounting for 21 of those 37 points.
The production disparity between the two groups was a backbreaking 30-12 in Game 2, with the Mavericks using Barea to dismantle the Lakers’ defense down the stretch with pick-and-roll sets and breakdowns on dribble penetration.
“I had good practice from that Portland series when I was going in there with [Marcus] Camby and [LaMarcus] Aldridge and [Chris Johnson],” said Barea, who is averaging 10.o points and shooting 46.7 percent from the floor against the Lakers. “That’s how I play. I love to attack the paint. I got all the shooters out there and I’ve got two big guys setting great screens for me … I came out with a lot of energy that I knew we needed [because] we were up. We did a great job defensively all game and I think a little spark by me worked out in the win.”
While Barea was playing hero, and taking licks from Ron Artest, his point guard counterpart Blake was playing the goat on the other side.
He missed all five of his shots in Game 2, all from beyond the 3-point line (doing his best to contribute to the Lakers’ 0-for-18 start from deep and 2-for-20 showing in the game). He’s yet to make a shot in the series and owns a hefty chunk of the Lakers’ reserves’ misses from beyond the 3-point line (0-for-14 in the series). Blake is 0-for-9 in his last three games (0-for-7 from deep), going back to Game 6 against the Hornets in the first round, with five assists and three turnovers.
But it was the veteran poise that was missing most late in Game 2 against the Mavericks, from Blake, the reserves, and anyone else that hit the floor for the Lakers.
“I thought they got anxious with about six and a half, seven minutes to go and I wanted to calm them down a little bit and tell them that it’s a 10-point game, it’s not that big a deal,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “We ended up scoring as many field goals as Dallas, but obviously the missed free throws and 3-point shots … that changes the game a lot.”