Tag: Los Angeles Dallas

Los Angeles Lakers v Dallas Mavericks - Game Four

NBA Playoffs: Mavs drop the Lakers in four, sweep away a dynasty


Somehow, it only took the Dallas Mavericks four games to prove wrong just about every prediction and every presupposition that existed going into their series against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers appeared bound for the Finals to pen a fitting final chapter of Phil Jackson’s coaching career. The Mavericks were supposedly the lesser team, haunted by ghosts of playoff runs past. Andrew Bynum was supposed to rule the paint, and Kobe Bryant the perimeter. There was talk of legacies and pedigrees, and the reigning champs were working toward a seemingly inevitable sprint into June.

The Lakers were the best team in this series on paper, but the Mavs created a disconnect between preconception and reality. There were close games and blowouts, but virtually nothing went according to plan. Bynum was largely contained, despite his precedent of excellence against Tyson Chandler in the post. Bryant had some big scoring nights, but occasionally hindered the flow of the Laker offense and barely attempted anything other than jump shots. The Mavericks were anything but the lesser team, and despite what any player or team’s reputation in this series would have suggested, the Lakers’ run ends here.

The defending champs were swept out of the playoffs in the second round in thoroughly embarrassing fashion, capped by a 122-86 demolition job by the Mavs. It was painful and embarrassing for the Lakers, but grant credit to the aggressors; while the Lakers disgraced themselves with their abysmal effort and lack of composure in Game 4, it was the Mavs’ execution that exposed the Lakers in every game of this series. L.A. was forced to respond repeatedly to Dallas’ ball movement and timely defensive rotations, and clearly wasn’t up to the challenge — a point made clear with each ridiculously open three that the Mavs took in Game 4, and the offensive possessions that grinded to a halt against Dallas’ defensive pressure.

The Dallas bench was incredible, as Jason Terry, Peja Stojakovic, and J.J. Barea powered the reserves to 86 combined points — the same as L.A.’s overall total. That’s an absurd boost from a group of non-starters, but not exactly inconceivable given the context of this game. The Lakers simply had no interest in chasing either Terry and Stojakovic around staggered screens — nor in stopping Barea on his drives to the rim, with the sole exception being Andrew Bynum’s cheap shot/flagrant 2 foul in the fourth quarter — and the Mavs offense swelled as a result. Terry tied an NBA playoff record with nine made three pointers (in just 10 attempts!) and Stojakovic made all six of his three-point attempts, most of which came without a defender in an eight-foot radius.

L.A. may have a fantastically talented core and the greatest coach in NBA history, but for 48 minutes — or four games, really — none if mattered a bit. The Mavs played as close to a perfect game as one could imagine, and scored 132.6 points per 100 possessions to the Lakers’ 93.5. That 39.1 efficiency margin isn’t a gulf or an ocean, but some expanse that doesn’t exist in our universe in physical terms. There are barely even words to describe how demonstrably better the Mavs were than the Lakers in Game 4, despite the fact that L.A.’s playoff lives were on the line, as was the last hurrah of a living legend.

No Laker is shielded from blame, and no Maverick should be without praise; this was a comprehensive team-wide dominance of the highest order, and the embarrassment in L.A.’s locker room should only be matched by the incredible pride of the home team.

NBA Playoffs: Game 4, where we find out if the Lakers care

Los Angeles Lakers v Dallas Mavericks - Game Three

We can talk about matchups — like how the Lakers need to get some kind of production out of the point guard spot — but that’s not really the biggest key in Game 4 in Dallas on Sunday.

It’s which Lakers team shows up.

More than anything, the Lakers have looked mentally fatigued in this series. Which is something that could come trying to make a fourth straight NBA finals. You see it when Lakers are not helping the helper on defense, when they fail to execute at the end of games. These are things the Lakers have done in the past, even this season, but have stopped now. The Mavericks are pushing them, playing great basketball, but the Lakers of previous years responded to those kind of challenges with a renewed fire and energy that this team just has not shown.

Do those Lakers fight in Game 4, or do they roll over?

I expect fight, but we’ve been expecting that for a while now and not seen it.

The Mavs will play hard — this series seems to bring them a sense or redemption. For the 2006 finals. For the 2007 collapse in the first round to Golden State. For all the playoff losses. It may not feel like redemption in the locker room, but they are sure playing like it does. And for the fans, this would be the sweetest of victories.

In terms of strategy, it’s nothing new. The Lakers need to get the ball inside to Andrew Bynum. He was the best Laker on the floor in Game 3 but he got no touches, no shots in the final 10 minutes. That’s not on Bynum, that’s on the Lakers guards for not getting him the ball. The Lakers more than any other team seem to go away from what works for them when the game gets tight.

For the rest of the Lakers, they need to get a good game from their point guards (good luck with that), they need a rested Ron Artest to take on some offensive load. And they need Pau Gasol. The one from last year. Credit Dirk Nowitzki and Dallas for playing good defense, but Gasol is capable of being one of those players (like Dirk) where the defense doesn’t matter when he’s going. He just has not been going this playoffs.

The Mavs just need to keep running their pick-and-roll action that the Lakers defense can’t solve. They need to be tough inside. They need Dirk to be Dirk. Basically, they just need to keep doing what they have been doing.

If they do that, it seems not to matter what Lakers team shows up.

Lakers’ Gasol admits he needs to “snap out of it”

Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Lakers - Game Two

One thing we have learned from this postseason — the Lakers are not nearly as good without Pau Gasol.

Technically they have had Gasol. He has played 36 minutes a game through the Lakers’ nine playoff games. But he hasn’t been the same guy as he was in the regular season. That Gasol put up 18.8 points per game on 52.9 percent shooting. The Gasol of the playoffs has averaged 13.4 points per game on 42.2 percent shooting. Dirk Nowitzki is shooting 76 percent this series when Gasol is on him. Gasol’s regular season PER of 23.3 is All-Star level; his playoff PER of 16.9 is just a slightly above average player.

The Lakers can’t win that way, and Marc Spears of Yahoo quoted Gasol after Game 3 as saying he realizes that.

He’s “out of it” mentally and hasn’t been able to be “effective or comfortable out there,” but couldn’t explain why and says he needs to “snap out of it.” Time is running out….

“It’s been tough,” Gasol simply said. “It’s been tough more than anything [because] of the losses.”

When asked if this poor playoff season ruins his previous Laker accomplishments, Gasol sternly responded: “You tell me? Should it? I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

It shouldn’t — the Lakers wouldn’t have the two rings they do without him.

I’ve know all about the rumors of the strife in Gasol’s personal life and … it doesn’t matter. That’s his personal life and it should stay his personal life.

Whatever the reason for his play, he does need to snap out of it. But frankly, it’s too late for this season.

NBA Playoffs: Dallas is just better than the Lakers

Dallas Mavericks Nowitzki celebrates hitting a three-point shot in the second half against the Los Angeles Lakers during Game 3 of the NBA Western Conference semi-final basketball playoff in Dallas

The Dallas Mavericks are better than the Los Angeles Lakers.

It is a weird thing to type, but it’s true. They may not have been for 40 minutes, 30 seconds on Friday night — the Lakers were up eight points with 7:30 left in the game — but the Mavericks offense dominated the rest of the way. Dallas won 98-92, on a huge, late comeback.

Dallas will move on. These two teams will play at least one more game or three because the rules demand it — but this series is over. Not because no team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit before in the NBA playoffs, but because right now Dallas is better than Los Angeles.

Kobe Bryant was rightfully frustrated afterward, talking about the Lakers’ mistakes; there were plenty. But Dallas is forcing them. This is about Dallas doing the things a contender does and the Lakers being unable to this year.

Dallas has the single best player in this series in Dirk Nowitzki (he had 32 points in this one on just 19 shots). Each game someone else has stepped up and made the key plays to be the other scorer Dallas needs (Peja Stojakovic with 11 in the fourth quarter Friday). 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).

When the Lakers led by eight in the fourth quarter, Dallas started to rain threes down — the Mavs shot 60 percent in the fourth quarter. It was not the two-time defending champs, it was Dallas that closed.

The Lakers played a much better defensive game in the second and third quarters, the best they played in this series. Their spacing, their aggressiveness on closeouts were better. At least it got better after a first-quarter shootout, with the Mavs knocking down open 3-pointers and the Lakers working hard on getting the ball inside.

Andrew Bynum was a beast inside; it may have been his best game as a pro. He finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds, but he was by far the most energetic and motivated Laker on the floor. His steal out at the 3-point line and finishing dunk was a signature play… or would have been if the Lakers had won.

But the Lakers never pulled away. Dallas has been too good all series to let the game slip away. This is where Jason Terry’s 23 points came in, he was the scoring spark the Mavs needed.

Then in the fourth quarter the Mavs started to rain threes on the Lakers. The Lakers stopped helping the helper — one Lakers defender would get beat, another Laker would slide in the paint to help stop penetration but nobody would rotate over to help out the helper. The result was Stojakovic getting wide-open threes. Even Nowitzki got wide-open threes. Kobe was as guilty as anybody. This was the “trust issue” Bynum talked about, and if you define trust by your defensive rotations, then the Lakers still have trust issues.

The use of Stojakovic was brilliant by Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle — the Lakers had gone with three bigs (Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and Bynum) but by putting Peja in, it forced Odom to come away from the paint and cover. It spaced the Lakers out and created room for others — which the Mavericks used well.

Dallas executed. The Lakers stopped executing.

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 down the stretch. Not once. It was Kobe shooting over double-teams while Odom stood open 12 feet away. It was terrible inbound passes from Fisher. It was a bad foul by Fisher 28 feet from the basket.

Meanwhile, Dallas just kept doing their thing and hitting shots (11-of-28 from three, 39.7 percent).

This is not the end of the Lakers dynasty. The core of this team — Gasol, Bynum, Kobe, Odom, even Ron 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 they are done.

The Mavericks are the better team.

Lakers to start Odom, Gasol, Bynum in one long front line

Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Lakers - Game Two

All season, the only real chance that Lakers fans got to see what Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum looked like playing at the same time was on NBA 2K11. Because Phil Jackson almost never ran that lineup out there — 2:30 for the entire season. Total.

But with the season on the line — down 0-2 to the Dallas Mavericks heading into Game 3 Friday night — and Ron Artest out suspended, Jackson is going to his literally big three.

Lamar Odom said he would be starting for Artest (beside Gasol and Bynum), although Jackson declined to be specific, according to Lakers.com. This is Phil Jackson, what actually happens when the ball goes up may have no resemblance to what was said pregame. But as of now it looks like Odom starts, not Matt Barnes or Shannon Brown as had been expected.

This does some interesting things to the matchups.

It gives the Lakers options in dealing with Dirk Nowitzki, who has been the best player in this series. Odom has had more success as a defender on him than Gasol.

On offense, this moves Kobe to more of a wing attack position, where bringing help defenders could be harder, notes Darius from Forum Blue & Gold. Kobe has gotten just one shot at the rim in two games, this could give him more room to attack (if his ankle can support it). It also pretty much forces Dallas to guard Kobe with Kidd.

Look for Dallas to counter with Peja Stojakovic early — force Odom to come out and defend him at the arc, spreading the floor.

This is going to be one fascinating game.