Well, it’s all over now.
The Lakers season. Phil Jackson pacing the Laker sidelines. The hope of another three-peat. All of it.
The Mavs completed what seemed improbable a week ago, sweeping the Lakers out of the playoffs with a dominant performance. 122-86 was the final count and that 36 point margin actually does sum up the game. The Lakers had their hats handed to them by the better team; the team that wanted it more. As I’ve said before, Dirk, Kidd, and Terry are three veteran players that have all been on the losing ends of countless high stakes battles and they weren’t going to fold this time. All congratulations go to them and the rest of the Mavs players and coaches for pulling out this series win.
This game truly was a microcosm of the entire series. Dallas’ ability to spread the floor with shooters and using the resulting spacing to beat the Lakers off the dribble was again the difference. Seemingly every Maverick was able to get by his man consistently and it collapsed the Lakers D, ultimately opening up shooters all over the court. The Mavs made 20 three pointers on the day with Terry (9-10!) and Peja (6-6!!) consistently reaping the benefits of a defense that had to be in too many places at once. The fact that no Laker could effectively contain his man off the bounce completely ruined any semblance of cohesiveness on the defensive end. The fact that the Mavs put on a shooting performance for the ages was just the rancid cherry on the Lakers’ poisonous sundae. They could have made only have their three pointers and the result in this game would have been the same.
To make matters worse however, is the fact that certain Lakers decided their frustration was too much to handle and sought out vigilante justice rather focusing that energy into playing hard down the stretch. Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum both got ejected on needlessly hard fouls, with Bynum’s being especially egregious as he threw a forearm shiver into the ribs of an airborne JJ Barrea that leveled him instantly. Losing is never easy, but losing while committing the type of dangerous foul that Bynum did is even tougher to swallow as it paints him and his team in a terrible light. No one likes sore losers and that’s exactly what Bynum looked like.
In the end, this wasn’t the Lakers day, series, or ultimately, their season. They lost to a better team and while it was unfathomable to think that would be the case just a couple of weeks ago, it is the truth. Dallas had the ingredients to beat this Laker group and with players underperforming (Gasol, Odom, the bench in general) this team didn’t have enough to win this year.
For now, though, my disappointment turns to reflection. The core of this Laker team has brought us so many highs that I feel the need to take some time and let this loss settle before I think about the future. Despite performing poorly, the core of this team brought us fans back to back championships and three straight trips to the Finals. They were at the top of the league and spoiled us all with great success that we’ll all be able to look back on and appreciate one day. I must also give a special thanks to Phil Jackson. Despite this awful sendoff, his 5 championships and 7 Finals appearances in 11 seasons will live with me forever. His calm demeanor soothed me in the hard moments of games and his quips at post game pressers and interview sessions were the best. He’s truly been a special coach and the best I’ve ever seen. I’m truly sad to see him go.
I know that it’s hard right now – the shadows of a terrible loss are dark and cold. But I think back on what this team has given and I simply can’t throw them under the bus right now. Not with Phil on his way out and with big changes potentially looming. There will be time to discuss all that. But for now, I give a round of applause to the Mavs, but an even bigger one to our Lakers. At least this one last time.