Home > Uncategorized > The Mavericks Have Earned It. But It’s More Entertaining To Talk About Where The Lakers Have Gone Awry

The Mavericks Have Earned It. But It’s More Entertaining To Talk About Where The Lakers Have Gone Awry

Rewind to five weeks ago. The Dallas Mavericks — the same Dallas Mavericks who now hold a 3-0 series lead — were dominated, overpowered, whipped by the Los Angeles Lakers — the same Los Angeles Lakers who are now one game away from their summer vacation.

The Lakers won that home game, 110-82. It was their second win over the Mavericks in March. Everything may be bigger in Texas, but the Lakers were too big for Dallas, and the game plan was simple: Let Dirk Nowitzki get his, shut down everyone else and pay extra attention to those behind the 3-point line.

It was why I an other Lakers fans wanted to see the Mavericks more than the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round of these NBA Western Conference playoffs.

I should have been careful about what I wished for. These are not the same Dallas Mavericks. These are not the same Los Angeles Lakers. I truly can’t believe what this series has shown us. I thought this was impossible, especially after what happened five weeks ago. But in those five weeks, the Mavs have become the favorite. The Lakers held leads late in games one and three of this series. They lost those leads, but it was the Mavs who won because they were simply better. How much better? The numbers don’t lie.

Dallas bench points: 112. Los Angeles bench points: 52

Los Angeles from the free-throw line: 39-for-54, which is OK. Dallas from the free throw line: 50-for-61, which is better than OK.

And now the damning evidence …

Los Angeles from 3-point range: 10-for-52 (19.2 percent). Dallas from 3-point range: 29-for-74 (39.2 percent).

Los Angeles’ points in the fourth quarter: 55. Dallas’ points in the fourth quarter: 82.

When the going gets tough and its time to really bear down, the Lakers have folded and the Mavericks have soared. One of Kobe Bryant’s nicknames is “The Closer,” but it’s the Mavericks who have done what is needed to win in the fourth quarter of close, grinding, desire-testing playoff games against a two-time defending champ. Defending — for now.

In those two regular-season losses to the Lakers, only three Mavericks scored at least 10 points in each game. In three L.A. embarrassments this series, Dallas has been much more balanced, getting multiple valuable contributions on offense from role players such as Shawn Marion, J.J. Barea and Peja Stojakovic.

But enough about Dallas. The Mavericks’ success isn’t the most entertaining storyline here; it’s all about the abrupt fall of the 2010-11 Lakers.

Pau Gasol has gotten so much criticism in this series, it’s becoming too much. But there is no denying it — he has looked catatonic throughout these three games. I have no problem with the usually calm Phil Jackson or any of his teammates getting in his face and slapping his chest to see if anything responds in there.

The bench has been useless, save for Lamar Odom in game one. Defense has become just a word, not a requirement, especially on the perimeter. And when Bryant tries to go into “Black Mamba” mode, he ends up poisoning his team.

I think a case in point came Friday when game 3 turned on three consecutive bad plays from Kobe with Los Angeles ahead in the fourth quarter.

Stojakovic had just hit a 3 to make it a three-point game with less than four minutes to play. Kobe then got walled off by Jason Kidd while doing his one-on-one routine and tried to force a pass into Gasol as the shot clock was running low. His last-second pass hit Gasol right between the numbers — on his back — and resulted in a turnover, which Kobe compounded with a stupid foul behind halfcourt on Kidd. Two free throws there cut the Lakers’ lead to one.

Kobe came back and put up a long, contested late attempt that fell well short. Two free throws from Nowitzki on the other end gave Dallas a lead and enough momentum to ride out any closing charge the Lakers could muster.

The Lakers had been so effective for most of the game when Kobe was a facilitator. He took only 16 shots on the night and shot 50 percent from the field. But as soon as he chose to put the team on his back — as he did in game 1 when he was very successful from the field — the Lakers got out of their offense and were all sorts of discombobulated. Everyone just clears out for Kobe. All of his teammates won’t get a shot, and they know it.

Speaking of not getting a shot, Andrew Bynum was 9-for-15 from the floor in game three with two minutes remaining in the third quarter. He has been one of the few impressive Lakers in these conference semis and was their best player Friday. So someone is going to have to explain to me how he attempted just one shot in the final 14 minutes. I would say it makes no sense, but why should I be surprised about that with this team in this series?

No matter your definition of NBA dynasty, three consecutive finals appearances with two championships to show for it should fit. The last time a Lakers dynasty was knocked off — dethroned by the Spurs in 2003 after three straight NBA titles — the franchise returned with nine new faces the following season. This changing of the guard should bring a similar result.

Jackson will retire, and many changes are coming to the Lakers on the court. But I’ll think about that later. The Lakers’ brass can start focusing on it in two days.

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