Giving Credit Where It’s Due; Mavericks Deserve 2-0 Lead

I can’t remember a certain point in last night’s Game 2 where I knew the Lakers were going to lose. Usually there is a defining moment in a game where momentum shifts and one team goes on to victory while the other ends in defeat. As I watched last night’s game I realized that it felt like watching an episode of the Twilight Zone.

Over the last two seasons the Lakers have won every must-win game they’ve played. In every playoff series it always seemed that they had the edge even when they were losing. The opponents always reacted to the Lakers moves rather than the other way around.

For the first time in three years that feeling was nowhere to be found. No matter what the Lakers did the Mavericks always had an answer. No matter how close the Lakers were the Mavericks found a way to re-establish control. In a game that was supposed to showcase the championship pedigree the Lakers have built the past two years they looked more like a punch-drunk boxer giving it one last go for an easy paycheck.

While there are plenty of things to look at and say that’s what cost the Lakers, I think this may finally be the series where the Lakers have run into a riddle they can’t solve. Despite all the talk about the Mavericks’ fragile psyche and their consistent breakdowns in the playoffs, they have handled themselves like champions through the first eight games of the post-season.

If the Mavericks do go on to eliminate the Lakers and advance deep into the playoffs they can look at one game as the turning point. After leading by 23 points late in the third quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers the Mavericks found themselves drowning. An impossible comeback led by an ailing star stunned Dallas and gave hope to the Blazers. The media jumped on the opportunity to proclaim the Mavericks were back, and would once again find a way to exorcise themselves from the playoffs.

Since that monumental collapse the Mavericks have done just the opposite. The team seems mentally prepared and physically dominant. A team that was once called soft and flimsy suddenly rallied behind a debilitating loss and turned defeat into victory. At the time of that loss the Mavericks were 2-2 in the playoffs. Since then they’re 4-0, and have pushed the back to back defending champions to the brink.

The aura of invincibility surrounding the Lakers is gone. The feeling that a miracle is not only likely but expected is no longer reality for this team. Something just feels different about this particular group of Lakers. And a lot of that can be be accredited to the Dallas Mavericks.

The Mavericks are beating the Lakers in almost every way possible. Dallas has taken the Lakers greatest strengths and turned them into weaknesses. The soft label that Los Angeles has spent two years trying to shed has been blanketed around them by a team looking to accomplish the same goal.

The roles of the two teams seem strangely reversed. To continue the Twilight Zone example from earlier, the Mavericks appear to have stolen the Lakers mojo and are using it against them. The unflappable superstar, in this case Dirk Nowitzki, is hitting shots that are deemed impossible. Their aging point guard seems to have found the fountain of youth and is connecting on timely buckets that kill the momentum of the opposing team. The success of unsung bench heroes deflates the opposition. This is the script that the Lakers have lived by for the past two seasons. This is the script that has found the Lakers victorious over countless teams. Yet this season it appears as if the Lakers are on the wrong end of the storyline.

Obviously there are more questions to explore if you truly want to dissect the series. Questions that involve Phil Jackson’s coaching decisions, Andrew Bynum’s post-game comments, and Ron Artest’s momentary lapse of reason. But in the end it appears the Lakers may have finally met their match. The team that couldn’t lose in the playoffs has run into the team that couldn’t win, and in a strange twist of fortunes each team is doing the opposite.

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SWEEEEEEP! No, I really do think the Lakers CAN stay in it! I mean, jeez… They are the 2 time champs! They need to stop tearing themselves down though! That locker room looks like a bunch of kids in the pricipals office for fighting! And GASOL… You guys stole him away and he played a key role in 3 finals appearances and 2 titles. Even if that’s all you get from him and you have to rebuild, GASOL helped you guys big time and you DEF got your money’s worth! Stop being fickle haters! Pau has given you TONS! Good luck in Big D! #MFFL

  • Whoops! Wrong article. This was supposed to be for the one where everyone hates Gasol.

  • I am a die hard Lakers fan but last night, the Lakers deserved to lose. When I watched the game it didn’t seem like they played with urgency, actually they played like high school kids, missing easy layups, and blowing free throws. The Mavericks must have studied the tapes very well because they were jumping into passing lanes as if they knew the ball was going to be there or the Lakers were doing a lot of lazy passing. Gasol hustled but couldn’t sink nothing, Kobe seemed like he couldn’t handle the ball and they played like they are against each other, not playing as a team. The team with the most heart will win the series, and I thought I was watching the Lakers, humph, I must have been wrong. WHERE ARE THE TWO TIME DEFENDING CHAMPS!!!!

  • I didn’t get a chance to watch game one, but I did watch the last few minutes of the fourth quarter, to me I really don’t think the Mavericks “deserved” that win, but it could have gone either way.
    I mean that no-call on Kobe going down was arguably a foul, especially when there was a foul called on the weak contact made on J-Kidd’s wrist (in the same play).

    Game two, the Lakers didn’t deserve that win, they just gave up really. I think Phil Jackson allowed Steve Blake to try and find his confidence for far too long in that game. Two bad passes and two missed threes on the same play by Blake? Not good enough.

    I do, truly, believe the Lakers can come back from this to tie it up 2-2 though. I mean the Mavericks won both of their road games, why can’t LA?
    Pau is yet to play well, when he does it’s a game changer.
    The Lakers won’t be going 2-17 (or whatever) from deep again.
    No Ron-Ron is bad, but it could be worse, it’s not like he was defending Dirk, the others aren’t exactly offensive stars.

  • O K Lakers I still believe in you now I need you to believe in yourself, I know you can, Come on Pau we need you Bynum is playing his tail off join in someone need to get Dirk he is bad but he can be got. Odom we need you like you were in the 1st series but you are doing Ok . Now Kobe turn up the heat for the whole came, I think your team mates like it when you take over, It inspires them good luck we need this 3 peat along with Phil.

  • I definitely don’t agree with your analysis! The Mavs are beating the Lakers because the Lakers are beating themselves, first! The Mavs would not be able to do all the things they’re doing IF the Lakers played ball like they’ve played this season. For some reason, Gasol has disappeared, Bynum is feeling sensitive, Lamar was too busy playing ‘husband’ to Kloe, nobody is talking to Artest, the entire bench is missing, etc. We have not seen the 2-time championship team – Somehow the coaching staff must guide the Lakers back to their championship days. The Mavs are an okay team who happened to be playing a Lakers team in disarray – that doesn’t mean the Mavs are better than the Lakers – they just wanted it more in the first 2 games! The story isn’t over yet!

  • You can continue to live in make believe la la land, but here in Reality, the Lakers run has ended abruptly, courtesy of the Dallas Mavericks. If Dallas had won the first game, but then the Lakers roared back with a 2nd game win, I would totally agree with you that the Lakers were so far superior. But two games ON YOUR COURT IN A ROW. Choke on it!!!!!!!!!!!

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