The Los Angeles Lakers came into tonight’s games in a 0-1 series hole, and they looked to avoid a daunting deficit heading to Dallas. The Lakers had double-digit lead in Game 1, but their poor execution down the stretch allowed the Mavericks to steal the opener. The Lakers needed a full 48 minutes of stellar basketball in order to tie the series at one.
The Lakers started the game strong, and they were able to hit their shots in the paint and on the perimeter. Los Angeles started the game hitting its first four shots, and its objective was to feed the ball to the big men. Kobe Bryant took more of a facilitator role in the early minutes, and he was finding players like Artest and Gasol for open looks at the basket. The Lakers also came out with the correct defensive intensity, and their swarming presence troubled the Mavericks. At the 6:00 mark of the first quarter, the Lakers held a 13-9 advantage.
Despite the Lakers’ brilliant start, the Mavericks took a 15-13 lead after a Jason Kidd three-point field goal. The Mavericks faced no resistance when attacking the basket and they were taking advantage of the Lakers’ lack of focus on defense.
Even though the Lakers were having offensive troubles as a team, center Andrew Bynum had an effective and efficient first quarter. Bynum dominated the paint, and his size overwhelmed the fairly less-physical Mavericks. Nevertheless, the Lakers only trailed by six points, 26-20, at the conclusion of the first quarter. Aside from Bynum, the rest of the team could not find any offensive success, but it still remained in striking distance.
Bynum lead the way with six points; however, the Lakers shot a dismal 37% from the field while the Mavericks shot 48%.
The Lakers came out in the second quarter looking very similar to the way they looked in the first. While the majority of the players on the floor were reserves, Dallas’ bench outplayed the Lakers in almost every facet of the game. Meanwhile, the Mavericks continued to attack the basket and draw fouls on the Laker players. Just like Game 1, Dallas was the aggressor while Los Angeles seemed content to stand around and play reactionary basketball.
After J.J. Barea continued to penetrate past the Lakers porous defense, Phil Jackson used a rather unusual lineup. With Derek Fisher running the point, Jackson had Steve Blake and Bryant in the game as well. For a team that is known for its size and length, they went away from it in an attempt to find a way to match up better with the Mavericks.
The lineup seemed to work as the Lakers regained the lead after putting together a 10-0 run. The crowd at Staples Center was into the game for the first time since the beginning of the game, but Dallas kept their composure. Unlike the end of the first half in Game 1 where the Mavericks unraveled, Dallas followed their leader Dirk Nowitzki to a halftime lead. Nowitzki hit several near-impossible shots that had the Lakers shaking their heads. With 24 minutes in the books the Mavericks led the Lakers 51-49.
The second half began and the mood was tense at the Staples Center. The crowd seemed to know that Los Angeles needed to find a way to win this game or else it would be nearly impossible for them to come back down 0-2 heading to Dallas.
As the teams began play again in the third the Lakers seemed shaken. The usual swagger and confidence that the team normally displays was glaringly absent. The team spent too much time looking at the officials for fouls instead of taking care of business on the floor. Despite only trailing by several points, the lead seemed nearly insurmountable for a struggling Lakers team.
The problems for L.A. were compounded by the continued excellence of Dirk Nowitzki. While the Lakers defense continued to struggle at closing out on shooters, Dirk continued to light up the scoreboard. A huge problem for the Lakers was their shooting from outside, as well. Through three quarters the Lakers had not connected on a single three point shot. Dallas had made six, and took a 68-62 lead into the fourth quarter.
Trailing by six heading into the quarter it seemed as if this twelve minutes would decide the future of the Lakers season. If Los Angeles was unable to overcome the lead and win the game they were facing a near impossible task. Once again the Dallas bench outplayed the Laker bench, and had a large advantage when the reserves were on the floor.
The Lakers continued to struggle in the fourth quarter, and it seemed that the Mavericks were going to find a way to shock the basketball world by winning Game 2 in Los Angeles. The Lakers couldn’t buy a shot from downtown, and with each missed three pointer the doubt grew inside the mind of the Los Angeles players.
The crowd at Staples Center continued to wait for the Lakers run that has become inevitable over the past few years, but it seemed that all the magic the Lakers had managed to conjure up the past two seasons was finally running out. The Mavericks bench, specifically J.J. Barea, shredded the Lakers defense down the stretch, and poor offensive execution doomed Los Angeles.
In one last heart-wrenching move Dirk put the final nails in the Lakers coffin with an impossible turn-around fadeaway over Gasol. As Dirk and the Mavericks cheered, the flocks of Laker fans headed towards the exits. The keys to the Dallas victory were simple – bench production and outside shooting. As time finally expired the Lakers found themselves in a very unfamiliar position – down 0-2 to the Mavericks heading to Dallas.
In a game that the Lakers said was must-win, they lost. Dallas defeated the Lakers, 93-81, and headed back to Dallas with momentum and a two game series lead.[phpbay]Los Angeles Lakers, 3, “”, “”[/phpbay]