The Roller Coaster Is At Its Low Point

Darius Soriano —  May 6, 2011

Here at FB&G we’ve always talked about the peaks and valleys of a season. How you have to enjoy the ride and appreciate the wins rather than expect them.

Right now, I think it’s fair to say that no one is enjoying this part of the ride as we’ve entered the deepest and darkest valley of our long journey as fans of this team.

After losing 98-92 to fall behind 3-0 in this series, the Lakers are now in a position that no NBA team has ever come back from; a place where past championship experience and pedigree mean little. It’s a tough place to be in as a fan of a team we’ve expected so much from, but here we are anyway.

As for the game itself, I thought commenter JM did a good job of summarizing the general good and bad that we saw from the Lakers:

What I did not like:
– Gasol. I can’t explain what happened to him along the way, but I am disappointed and frustrated with him, as I’m sure many also are.

– Instances of weak defensive rotations gave Dallas ample opportunities for wide open spot-up 3’s. Nowitzki had plenty of open looks, and he made us pay, as expected. The Mavericks shot 41.4% as a team. Although most of the makes (6) were in the first quarter before the Lakers made adjustments, the defense was still not good enough.

– Rebounding: Oftentimes, the players who were not in the paint simply stood and watched the trajectory of the ball, as opposed to putting themselves on a body or extending their arms to block out. This might have gone unnoticed due to the fact that the interior rebounders often ran and got to the ball before the unchecked Dallas players.

– The Lakers stopped going to Drew in the second half. Bynum scored seven points (of his 21) in the second half on three buckets and a free throw. He was 3 of 5 in the second half. The last miss by Drew? 11:42 left in the fourth quarter.

– Peja scored the same amount of points as our entire bench. That is unacceptable. Conversely, Odom did not continuously attack Stojakovic in the post, often dribbling out the clock and settling with a jump shot. At one point, Kobe clearly yelled at LO, “Get in the effin’ post! Post his ass up!” Lamar should have exclusively operated in the post on Marion and Peja. They can’t stop him.

What I did like:
– Phil Jackson finally showing some fire that I had never seen before.

– Bynum. The single positive I took from this game. Drew showed determination, perseverance, patience, and effort. You can’t ask for more than that. I thought he played great, it’s just unfortunate that the Lakers decided to stray from the first half game plan.

– The bench. I thought they played reasonably well. Blake showed his patented patience and discipline to run the Triangle. Shannon cut down on his bonehead plays and helped contribute offensively. Barnes led the Lakers with a +4; the only Laker not in the negative.

– The Black Mamba played within the offense, all the while setting up his teammates. Offensively, the Mamba scored with great efficiency, making 8 of 12 at one point.

In adding to that, I thought Lamar Odom’s play was also a key to this game in both positive and negative ways. In the first half his size was a great bonus as a help defender in the paint and as a rebounder. Whenever the Mavericks ran a P&R, it was Odom that was leaving Marion to clog up the middle of the floor to limit the penetration that often opens up shooters. Offensively, Odom got involved in a lot of P&R’s as a screener and used his agility to make catches on the move and either finish in the paint or move the ball on to an open teammate. I also thought his patience as both a post entry passer and a post up player helped the Lakers control the tempo and helped them take the lead. These were the benefits of having a power forward play small forward. He was simply great.

However, in the 2nd half and especially in the 4th quarter, the Mavs started to take advantage of Odom being a PF playing SF. Rather than leave the ineffective Shawn Marion on the floor, the Mavs went to Peja to space the floor. The Mavs then did a great job of isolating Dirk and Terry so that they could attack the Laker defense. This attacking preyed on Odom’s penchant for helping off his man and it left Peja open for shots that he knocked down to close the gap. After the Mavs were able to get the game close, they then continued their masterful run of top notch execution to stave off the Lakers.

What was also damaging, of course, was the Lakers inability to run their own offense down the stretch. I thought a key sequence was when Gasol hit a basket and drew a charge on back to back plays and then the Lakers tried to milk that momentum by going back to him on multiple possessions. Meanwhile, Bynum (who had been playing great the entire game) was ignored on offense and the ball got stuck on one side of the floor against a stacked up defense. This led to the shot clock winding down and the Lakers unable to generate good shots. It’s trend that we’ve seen countless times this year but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with (or comprehend) when such an important game is lost because of it.

All that said, this series isn’t technically over. In Kobe’s post game presser he basically invited reporters to call him crazy and said that he’s still of the mindset that the Lakers can win this series. While I think we’d all agree that’s a far fetched idea, I’m looking forward to Sunday’s game in the hopes that the Lakers can get a win and bring the series back to Los Angeles. Not because I see some miraculous comeback on the horizon, but because I’d love for just a few more days of Laker basketball. You see, I love this team (especially the core guys) and I’ll support them until the series is actually over. Again, I’ll let JM take it from here:

You know what?

I’m sticking it out with the Lakers until the bloody end.

I don’t care that a comeback is a statistical improbability. I don’t care that we would have to win four in a row, including two in Dallas, to avoid defeat. I don’t care that the bandwagoners have begun their exit, that the “analysts” have already written us off, or the fact that the Lakers played as well as they could, within their odd limitations, and still lost.

I know it hurts like s***. Trust me, I’m feeling it. But I’m not going to take the easy way out, accepting resignation in hopes of preventing further disappointment and heartache. I’m going to gut it out.

Until. The. Bloody. End.

Darius Soriano

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