Coming into today’s Game 4, the Lakers were faced with the possibility of a sweep. No, the Lakers did not have a chance to sweep―they had a chance to get swept. Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson won five championships together, and they weren’t going to let their season end in Dallas. They needed to play 48 minutes of great basketball in order to keep their title aspirations alive.
The Lakers’ offense ran through Kobe Bryant in the opening minutes of the game, and it was obvious Kobe wanted to make sure the team got off to a strong start. The team played great defense in the early goings, but no other player besides Kobe was able to find a groove on offense. Pau Gasol continued his slump and Ron Artest could not connect on his long-distance shot attempts. Although the Lakers started off playing great defense, the Mavericks soon began hitting their shots. At the 4:51 mark of the first the Mavs held a 16-11 lead.
Bryant was carrying the Lakers on one end of the court with his offensive prowess, but the team failed to contest the Mavericks’ three-point attempts. At the conclusion of the first period, the Lakers found themselves trailing by four points, 27-23.
Kobe had 13 of the Lakers 23 points, and he was the only player showing a sense of urgency. The Lakers shot 42% in the first quarter; however the Mavericks put up 52%.
The Mavericks opened the second quarter strong, and they continued to get open looks from behind the arc. Reserve guard Jason Terry hit his third consecutive three, and he gave the Mavs a 37-27 lead at the 9:25 mark of the period. Despite the fact that the Lakers made it a priority to make a better effort in guarding the opponent, and Mavs faced little pressure on defense.
The Mavericks’ 7-0 run ended with a Ron Artest lay-up, but the Lakers failed to defend Terry and they faced a double-digit deficit. The Lakers played with no defense intensity or a sense of focus, and with 6:32 left in the half, the Lakers trailed 50-32.
The Mavericks continued their onslaught and they used the crowd’s energy to blow open their lead. The Mavs had open shots on nearly every possession, and there was a dearth of energy on the Lakers’ side. Dallas eventually opened up a 25 point lead, and the Lakers’ could not find a way to make their shots.
At the end of the second quarter, the Lakers trailed the Mavericks, 63-39. The Mavericks shot an incredible 60% from the field, and they were able to knock down 11 three-point attempts.
The Lakers and Mavs started the second half slow, and neither team was able to find their offensive groove. The Lakers were preventing the Mavericks from scoring, but they could not connect on their shot attempts on the other end of the court. The Lakers made a push in the third period, but Ron Artest’s missed dunk ended any hopes for a run. The Mavericks answered back with consecutive jump-shots, and Jackson had to call a time-out when the deficit reached 71-49.
Jason Terry could not be stopped from his hot shooting, and he constantly provided his team with a shot when they needed it the most. Looking at the Lakers body language, one could easily see their frustration and disbelief with the score of the game.
Heading to the bench the Lakers trailed 86-62, looked deflated and needed a miracle to win the game.
The Lakers had 12 minutes to climb themselves out of the game, but the deficit was too large to overcome. Phil Jackson coached perhaps his final quarter as an NBA head coach, but his players did not show their leader any effort.
Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum both got ejected out of the game in the late stages of the fourth quarter, and at that point all hope was lost. The Lakers were clearly frustrated with the outcome of the game, but they had to take out their anger on the Maverick players. The Lakers never made a run in the final period, and the reserves came onto the court near the 6:00 mark.
The final buzzer rang, and the Lakers got swept after a dismal performance, 122-86. Phil Jackson coached perhaps his last game as an NBA coach, and will most likely end his career with 11 championships. Kobe Bryant will remain one title short of tying Michael Jordan’s six rings, the same goes for Derek Fisher.
The Lakers’ summer has officially begun, and expect to see changes to the Lakers’ roster.