DALLAS, TX - MAY 06: Guard Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts during a 98-92 loss against the Dallas Mavericks in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 6, 2011 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
For the past two seasons, the Lakers have dug holes for themselves, then summoned the skill and will to climb out of them. It was almost like a little game for them, a way to test themselves.
They did it in the first round of the playoffs, losing the first game to an inferior New Orleans team, and now the Lakers have dug themselves another hole. And they won't be able to climb out of this one.
With a disappointing 98-92 loss Friday night in Dallas, the Lakers fell behind 0-3 to the Dallas Mavericks in this second round series. No team in NBA history has come back from deficit to win a series.
"I don't know, I mean, I might be sick in the head or crazy something like that because I still think we're still going to win this series,” Kobe Bryant said after the game. “I might be nuts. Win on Sunday, and go back home and see if they can win in LA"
You’ve got to like his confidence. Only, one little problem:
The Dallas Mavericks have been better than the Los Angeles Lakers this past week.
Friday night was the Lakers best effort of this series and they were the better team for 40 minutes — the Lakers were up eight with 7:30 left in the game — but the Mavericks outscored the Lakers 27-13 the rest of the way. The Lakers could not stop them.
Bryant was rightfully frustrated afterward talking about the Lakers mistakes. And there were plenty — once again the Lakers defensive rotations were terrible. They did not “help the helper,” meaning when one Laker rotated to help another on defense, nobody rotated to pick up the helper’s man leaving wide open shots to the Mavericks' sharpshooters.
But the Lakers problems and beat down has been bigger than that.
Dallas has had the single best player in this series in Dirk Nowitzki, scoring 32 on just 19 shots on Friday. Each game someone else has stepped up and supported Nowitzki on Dallas, including Peja Stojakovic with 11 in the fourth quarter last night.
Dallas is executing better in the fourth quarter. Dallas is getting better coaching, or at least the Dallas players are executing what the coach wants.
Dallas went on their fourth quarter run in this game when they started to rain threes down on the Lakers — the Mavs shot 60 percent in the fourth quarter. Nowitzki and Stojakovic were getting open looks any time they want because the Lakers, including Kobe, missed defensive assignments time and time again.
The one Lakers bright spot was Andrew Bynum who was a beast inside. Friday was his best game of the series and possibly his best game as a Laker. He finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds, and was by far the most energetic and motivated Laker on the floor. His steal at the three-point line, dribble the length of the court and finishing dunk was a signature play; or would have been if the Lakers won.
But the Lakers never pulled away. Dallas hung around, and when the game got tight late Dallas executed while the Lakers floundered.
As they often do at the end of games, the Lakers threw the triangle out the window and went to isolation or pick-and-roll plays. The result was Bynum not touching the ball once in the final 10 minutes of the game. Not once. It was Kobe shooting over double teams while Odom stood open 12 feet away. It was terrible inbound passes from Fisher, and a bad foul by Fisher 28 feet from the basket.
Meanwhile, Dallas just kept doing their thing and hitting shots including 11-of-28 from the 3-point line (39%).
This is not the end of the Laker dynasty. The core of this team — Gasol, Bynum, Kobe, Odom, even Artest — are all young enough to make another run. The team needs work, but the core is there to make another run.
But not this year. This year will be all over soon.