Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers sits on the bench alone before the start of the third quarter.
The Los Angeles Lakers look nothing like the championship team that has had parades down Figueroa the last two years.
The jerseys are the same. A lot of the players are the same. But they do not look like a fearsome king defending his crown and home.
Not when they were going 0-15 from three-point range. Not when a 5-foot-9 backup point guard was shredding their defense in the fourth quarter. Not when they wouldn’t feed the ball to the one guy — Andrew Bynum — having a good game.
The result was a 93-81 loss to the Dallas Mavericks that leaves the Lakers desperate. They are down 2-0 in the best-of-seven series and they dropped both of those games at home. If the Lakers don't pack some better play and a couple wins in their bags, they'll be gone in a few games.
In the second round.
What has happened to the Lakers to cause such disarray?
“It’s obvious we have trust issues, and unless we come out and discuss them then nothing is going to change,” Bynum said after the game.
Trust issues with what?
“Individually. Between all 13 of us we’ve got trust issues right now,” Bynum said. “I mean, I think it’s quite obvious to anybody watching the game. Hesitation on passes, defensively not being there for you teammate because he wasn’t there for you before. Stuff like that.”
There was a lot of stuff like that.
The Lakers offense misfired all night — the team going 0-15 to start the game from three allowed Dallas to back off the Lakers shooters and clog the paint. That meant Bynum and Pau Gasol had less room to operate. In Game 2 the Lakers shot 13-of-23 at the rim — they kept missing layups and dunks. Or getting their shots blocked.
Dallas held the Lakers to 32 second half points.
The Mavericks sealed the win with a brilliant second half from J.J. Barea. The diminutive Puerto Rican guard — to look at him, he would be the last guy picked in your pickup-game at the YMCA — carved up the Lakers defense off the pick-and-roll. He exposed Lakers defenders.
All season long this Lakers team has shown flaws. They leave the door open. They make mistakes. Dallas has capitalized. The Lakers have made mistakes in the past but been able to overcome them — Dallas is showing a mental and physical toughness, and they are making the Lakers pay for their lapses.
It’s not the referees, it’s not just a flat Pau Gasol, it’s deeper than that. Dallas has been the better team.
Now the Lakers will need to win four of the next five games, including two in Dallas, to win the series. Not impossible.
Well, not impossible for the Lakers we remember from last season. These Lakers look different. Right now Dallas is standing toe-to-toe with the Lakers and winning the battles.
And if that doesn’t change the Lakers will be on vacation very soon.