Lakers Have No One To Blame But Themselves

Quick, has anyone ever won the NBA title by losing the first game of every series they’ve played?

Maybe the Lakers are trying to go for the record.

After amassing a 16 point lead in their second round opener the Lakers choked it away through a series of poor decisions coupled with some resilient play from Dallas.

Watching the Mavericks melt down to end the first half and come out flat to start the second, you’d think they were ready to fold it up and just wait for Game 2. Yet time after time it was the they, and not the Lakers, who made plays down the stretch.

Dirk knocking in a ridiculous fade away. Kidd throwing a perfect lob pass. Chandler with defensive clamp down. The Mavericks made things happen when they needed to. The Lakers, on the other hand, simply couldn’t or, in some cases, wouldn’t make the right play.

Rather than go into the post and force a deliberate pace the Lakers acquiesced the Mavericks desire to up the tempo by settling for jump shot after jump shot.

Long misses lead to long rebounds and that means more run out opportunities. Before they knew what was happening, Dallas started raining shots down like a winter storm. The once mighty lead was eviscerated in less than half a heartbeat.

And the capper to all of it was the biggest error of the night, a Gasol foul committed  trying to steal an inbounds pass to Dirk Nowitzki with all of 20 seconds to play. Dirk went to the line and calmly knocked in two free throws to give Dallas the lead. The Lakers wouldn’t score again.

Now does a Game 1 loss mean the series is over? Hardly. But are a number of key adjustments necessary? Absolutely.

Firstly, and not surprisingly, the Lakers should pound the ball inside (gee, you think, really?). That means Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum need to touch the rock. Bynum was a revelation in the Hornet’s series but in game 1 against the Mavs he had only 8 points and 5 rebounds in 29 frustrating minutes of play.

‘Drew created a few nice opportunities, either quality shots or drawing fouls, but it seemed like as the game wore on his teammates looked for him less and less. Hopefully this is soon rectified.

Second is Kobe Bryant. The Mamba’s stat line showed 36 points on 29 shots, including the potential game winner that he missed as time expired. He also recorded exactly 0 assists.

That last number is particularly alarming. At his absolute best Kobe is still able to make other players better not just pour in points. I suspect he’ll come out in game 2 with an extra emphasis on facilitation. But that’s not all the Lakers will need.

Consistency from the bench will be critical in this series. They don’t necessarily have to expand on leads, but they can’t have a repeat of the beginning of the fourth quarter. In the blink of an eye a seven point lead was cut to 1. Dallas had confidence and momentum. In the end, it was enough.

Now, judging from the post game mood the purple and gold the are highly concerned  that the Mavericks are a team to be reckoned with. Yet t would be one thing if Dallas had the ability to push their game to a level that the Lakers are incapable of matching.  That’s doubtful. Just don’t be that team that never even gives itself a chance to win.

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