For most of the season, the Lakers have played some of their best basketball coming out of the half, extending leads they already had or taking leads from opponents. That wasn’t the case last night. Then again, this definitely wasn’t the first night that the Lakers struggled in the third – like they did in Memphis just one night before – but going into the game against Dallas, the Lakers had taken eight third quarter deficits and turned them into victories. That wasn’t the case last night.
There were too many turnovers, they gave up too many offensive rebounds, they fouled too much (at the wrong times, too), they couldn’t close out quarters and Kobe didn’t shoot the ball well. On this second game of back-to-back roadies, the Lakers did not look like potential NBA Champions, and Dallas – the new look Dallas, mind you – looked like a team who was finally able to match up well with the Lakers.
There were some points in last night’s game that make your gut churn looking back at it. The Lakers led 50-43 with less than a minute left in the second quarter and went into the break only up a point. Kobe’s foul on Jason Terry behind the three-point line. Jason Kidd’s wide open three at the end of the third quarter – turning a one-point Lakers lead into a two point Lakers deficit going into the fourth. That 7:54 mark in the fourth quarter, which put the Lakers over the foul limit. Dirk’s missed fade away over Odom – which led to yet another Brendon Haywood offensive rebound, which led to Dirk getting the ball back late in the shot clock. Dirk would hit a back-breaking jumper over Kobe while getting fouled by who is usually the best player on the floor. Kobe knows not to foul so late in the shot clock, but that was just the kind of night it was for the Lakers. You can live with Dirk dropping 30+, but not when it’s coupled with a 30-point game from Jason Terry.
Brian Kamenetzky at Land O’ Lakers wrote about the Lakers propensity to make mistakes despite being given ample chances to win last night’s game:
On the ensuing trip after Odom’s free throws, Jason Kidd brought the ball up the left side, and was met by Bryant, who aggressively went over a Shawn Marion screen to scuttle one of Dallas’ many pick and roll attempts on the evening. Eventually, the ball made its way to Dirk Nowitzki, who took and missed a tough catch and shoot fading away over Odom.
Poke. The Lakers surrendered yet another offensive rebound, this one to Brendan Haywood. The ball never hit the rim, putting the Mavs under the gun to get a shot off. Kidd dribbled right, and found nothing. He fed Nowitzki near the foul line, matched against Kobe, the shot clock nearly expired. Dirk spun left, and right at the buzzer fired another difficult shot.
The ball fell as Kobe committed the sin of fouling late in the clock.
Dirk went to the line, and buried the free throw. Mavs by five, 87-82.
Don’t get me wrong- the Lakers didn’t lose the game on this play any more than they did early in the fourth, when they turned the ball over three times in two minutes, committed some terrible fouls, and struggled to run the offense. Or when they gave up six late points to close the first half (including a three-point shooting foul of Jason Terry), or when they scored three points over the first three-plus minutes of the third.
Mark Medina from the Los Angeles Times’ Lakers Blog wrote about the same problems:
There was plenty of time remaining, but the Lakers spent most of it just making silly mistakes. Fisher fell on the ground, Terry made an open three pointer and Dallas had a 90-84 lead with 5:20 remaining. After Bryant’s turnaround jumper missed with the shot clock winding down, forward Pau Gasol missed a rebound in front of him and Brendan Haywood converted on one of two free throws as the Lakers trailed 92-86 with 2:39 left. There was also Bynum’s turnover in the paint that appeared to be a defensive foul. Bynum protested the call instead of getting back on D as Terry’s transition layup gave Dallas a 95-86 lead with 2:14 remaining.
Odom’s six consecutive points kept the Lakers in contention, as they trailed 97-92 at the 1:13 mark, but there would be no Mamba providing the Lakers with another game winner. Though the Lakers trailed 97-94 with 24 seconds remaining and plenty of time on the shot clock, Bryant immediately attempted a three-pointer that rimmed out. Gasol couldn’t secure the loose ball and ultimately was called for an offensive foul. Though Bryant’s two free throws on the next possession cut the lead to 99-96 with nine seconds left, the Lakers didn’t press properly and fouled Nowitzki with one second remaining.
The ending marked a cold reality. There were too many areas that contributed to the Lakers loss, and there wasn’t enough of an effort to fix it.
For those of you who missed the game, Basket Blog has the running diary of the game for all of your big plays and analysis by quarter. John Ireland has a column up on the potential entertainment level of a Lakers-Mavericks playoff series. Rob Mahoney has an article up at Hardwood Paroxysm on why Kobe will always be a topic up for debate. Todd Archer of the Dallas Daily News Mavs Blog has a short piece on what last night’s win meant for the Mavericks players.
Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register wrote his column on Derek Fisher and how the Lakers are going to need him to play well for the team to be successful because, in Ding’s opinion, they don’t have anyone better.
Fisher is fast moving into Bryant longtime territory of being an uncommonly divisive player. That’s actually not altogether surprising given that Fisher has a lot of characteristics in common with Bryant. Both would never fail to believe in themselves, which means they’re perfectly willing to believe they’re better than they really are – which isn’t exactly an endearing quality.
But if Fisher believes he’s better than he really is right now, so does Phil Jackson. And ultimately, that’s where the Lakers are with this: They still trust Fisher to do what they need done, which I’ve tried to explain before can’t be boiled down to a shooting percentage or judged by the speed of a defensive slide.
It’s the Lakers’ trust that Fisher will do the right things for the team on the floor that keeps him out there.
That is rooted in but not limited to all the goodwill he has amassed in his past. It’s also that the Lakers don’t have anyone better – and that’s the angle that should be more of a concern for Lakers fans.
I’ll leave you guys with a couple more links to get you through the Lakers’ off day:
– Ball Don’t Lie has a post about a new documentary on the Magic/Bird rivalry that will be airing on HBO on March 6th.
Slated to debut nationally on Saturday, March 6, at 8 p.m., the HBO documentary Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals features plenty of amazing basketball and insights on the Magic/Bird relationship from former teammates (Kevin McHale, Cedric Maxwell and Michael Cooper), family members (Bird’s brother Mark and Magic’s sister Evelyn), longtime friends (Arsenio Hall), cultural commentators (Chuck Klosterman) and sports journalists, including ex-Boston Globe scribe Jackie MacMullan, whose recent book on the rivalry was cited by HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg as “an inspiration” for the project during the film’s Boston premiere, held Monday night at the TD Garden.
– ESPN.com (via Dime Mag) has a story up on a portion of Roland Lazenby’s new book about Jerry West where it explains how West talked John Calipari out of drafting Kobe Bryant (h/t to Kurt Helin).
First West had to take the huge gamble of trading veteran center Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets for their thirteenth pick in the draft. Then he learned that John Calipari, the coach of the New Jersey Nets, planned to take [Kobe] Bryant with the eighth pick before the Lakers could snare him at thirteen.
“Jerry wanted Kobe, so he basically called up and talked Cal out of drafting Kobe,” explained Hal Wiseel, who was with the Nets at the time. West encouraged the Bryant family to talk to Calipari and explain that their son really wanted to play for the Lakers. “He knew if we didn’t take him at eight, he’d drop to Charlotte, and he could make the deal with Charlotte,” Wissel recalled. “Cal was young in the league and, hey, it’s Jerry West on the phone.”