3-pointer: Lakers exploit Mavs' most glaring flaw

LOS ANGELES – Coach Rick Carlisle cited “embracing our imperfections” as one of the keys to the Mavericks’ 11-5 March.

Perhaps their biggest flaw bit the Mavs hard as they opened April with a lopsided loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Mavs, who rank third to last in the league in rebounding differential, got absolutely dominated on the glass by the longer, more athletic Lakers. L.A. had a 57-37 rebounding edge and grabbed 10 offensive rebounds.

“That’s really the game,” Carlisle said. “I know they’re big, but our persistence has to make up for our lack of size.”

That definitely wasn’t the case in Tuesday night’s critical loss. NBA rebounding leader Dwight Howard grabbed a dozen boards in addition to his game-high 24 points, and he was one of four Lakers to post double-doubles. Actually, Kobe Bryant (24-11-11) had a triple-double, with Earl Clark (17-12) and Pau Gasol (14-10) contributing to the Lakers’ paint domination.

“Ain’t no excuses” said Shawn Marion, who led the Mavs with seven rebounds. “If you really want it, you’re going to get it done. All the loose balls went to them. All the 50/50 balls went to them. It’s frustrating, man.”

Added Vince Carter, who grabbed just a lone rebound in 27 minutes: “We had our moments where we just let them take advantage of us.”

A few more notes from the Mavs’ crushing loss:

1. Dirk’s dud: Coming off his best week of the season, Dirk Nowitzki couldn’t keep it going against the Lakers.

The Mavs’ superstar was held to 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting. He even looked like Dwight Howard from the free throw line, making only 2-of-6 attempts.

The Lakers simply never let Nowitzki, who had 33- and 35-point performances last week and scored 30 in the Mavs’ last meeting with L.A., establish a rhythm. He was more effective as a distributor (six assists) than a scorer.

“They had long bodies on him. They were physical with him,” Carlisle said. “When we got him a lot of touches, a lot of times he was forced to pass. Unfortunately, we were unable to hit a lot of the shots where he kicked out. Getting him quality shots is always going to be tougher against better teams and experienced teams.”

Added Nowitzki: “I didn’t have a lot of easy ones tonight. I had to work for it. The ones I did have, I’ve just got to knock down.”

2. Kaman’s contributions: Chris Kaman, the 7-footer with the $8 million salary, led the Mavs in scoring with 14 points after making his first start since March 20.

Kaman, who refused to speak to reporters after the game, made 7-of-10 shots from the floor and grabbed six rebounds in 20 minutes. That came on the heels of playing a total of 12 minutes in the Mavs’ previous four games, including two DNP-CDs.

“I think Kaman is a good player and he’s a guy we need,” Carlisle said. “I thought coming into tonight, our best chance to get something out of him was to start him because he can get open looks, he’s a big body, he can use some of his fouls on Howard early. I thought he did a really solid job out there.”

The Mavs didn’t get much out of their two big men who had been playing the vast majority of the minutes. Brandan Wright and Elton Brand combined for only six points and six rebounds in 30 minutes.

3. Love for Shaq: The Lakers retired Shaquille O’Neal’s number at halftime, giving Mark Cuban an opportunity to reminisce about his days as verbal sparring partner with the legendary big man.

“He was a beast,” Cuban said. “But forget the player. Everybody knows who he was as a player. He's just a great guy. He brought so much fun and attitude and energy to the game. That's what makes Shaq special then and now.

“Plus he was a nice foil. He would come at me and I think when he realized I wouldn't back down from him, that I'd come right back at him, then it got fun for both of us. And we've stayed friends. We're good friends now.”