|Nice to meet you, Mike D'Antoni's ideal Lakers. (Getty Images)|
The quasi-literary phrase “Jekyll and Hyde team” in sports can be quite cliché but when talking about the Los Angeles Lakers, it fits quite nicely.
Juxtapose the home Lakers and the away Lakers and you'll see complete opposites. At home, the Lakers have been a really good offensive team and a defensive stalwart. On the road, the Lakers are the complete opposite. They can't stop anybody away from the Staples Center (with the Lakers' home parquet, of course) and their offense stagnates to no end.
Heading into Saturday night's game with the Dallas Mavericks, the Lakers were sporting an 0-4 road record. They had a road offensive rating of just 101.3 and a defensive rating of 112.5. The -11.2 net rating on the road is nearly the exact opposite of their +11.7 net rating at home. With frustrating losses in Sacramento and Memphis over the last two road games, the Lakers needed to establish themselves as capable of dominating road games, especially against wounded teams.
That's exactly what they did in Dallas.
The Lakers had a complete team effort throughout the game. The role players played their roles and the stars did exactly what they needed to do. They destroyed a decent team on the road and allowed themselves to conserve their key players on the second night of a back-to-back.
The starting lineup of Darius Morris, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard obliterated their competition tonight. D'Antoni only required them to play 10 minutes together on the court and in those 10 minutes they posted a net rating of +39.5. That is an insane number in just 10 minutes of action.
NBA.com had the pace of the game at nearly 106 possessions for tonight and that's what reflected in the infamous “eye test.” The Lakers were swift in their offensive attack, bombing quickly from 3-point range and taking half of their 82 field goal attempts in the restricted area.
The Dallas Mavericks are battered and just trying to apply Band-Aids until Dirk Nowitzki is healthy enough to return and be the focus of their attack. The Lakers saw a wounded opponent and pounced on a team unlikely to be able to keep up when their opponents are clicking.
The flurry of offense that hit the Mavericks' defense was tough to deal with. Pau took the majority of his shots inside, like he had been begging to do. Metta World Peace hit five of his seven 3-pointers while Jodie Meeks dropped three 3-pointers off the bench. Antawn Jamison ended up with 19 points and 15 rebounds off the bench in 29 minutes.
Let's think about that for a moment. The Jamison-World Peace-Meeks triumvirate combined for 49 points on 29 shots and 26 rebounds. That total alone was nearly half of the Mavericks points and two-thirds of the Dallas rebounding totals. The domination on the boards (61-39), the domination on 3-point shooting (54.5 percent to 35.7 percent) and the Lakers ability to pound the ball inside (50 points to 36) allowed Los Angeles to coast to a much-needed victory.
This is the effort Mike D'Antoni preached about during his introductory offense -- quick decisions with the ball and a flow of offensive attack that acted as a deluge against their opponents. Is this a sustainable model over the course of the season? Probably not.
But this game showed the potential of what D'Antoni's system is capable of creating in Laker Land. These are the games in which Kobe Bryant doesn't have to over-extend himself, allowing his body to rest while still posting impressively efficient numbers. And this offensive output is all without their two best point guards.
In the grind of a full season, the Lakers need nights like this. They need to save the legs of their stars. They need to save Kobe's knee, Dwight's back, and Pau's confidence. They need success and relaxation in the same 48-minute span. They need to show teams throughout the league that they can be the scary force everyone assumed they'd be in the preseason.
Doing this away from the Staples Center, when Jack Nicholson isn't in his assigned seat, is key. It gives the Lakers the much-needed and clichéd persona of fighting against the world inside a hostile environment. It may not mean anything to anybody outside of the Lakers organization, but it's this kind of thought-process that builds chemistry and a sense of defending your teammate.
The Lakers will have bumps in the road the rest of the regular season and they'll have peaks that put us in a sense of awe. What's important for them is they get more peaks in succession as the season plods along, setting them up for a postseason run the organization has grown accustom to over the past three decades.
If they can be Jekyll on the road and at home more often than they play like Hyde, we'll see a lot less griping about roles and a lot more discussion about how they take care of business.
Now let's just see if they can find any positive consistency in the near future.