I watched this one at the Spring Street Bar downtown. This yahoo behind me tried to get L..."/> I watched this one at the Spring Street Bar downtown. This yahoo behind me tried to get L..."/>

Lakers on the Brink, Fall to Mavs 98-92


I watched this one at the Spring Street Bar downtown. This yahoo behind me tried to get Lakerville going with cheers. Let’s Go, Lakers, Let’s Go. The place was packed but only one guy on the other side of the bar joined in. That was about it. The yahoo tried it a few more times during the game but each time was joined only by the guy on the other end of the bar and maybe one or two others. Even at its peak, the Let’s Go, Lakers, Let’s Go didn’t last two repetitions before the other two or three guys had already dropped out. Dude was looking for some communal love.  Once he complained out loud something like, Gee, no Laker fans here. He didn’t get it.  Most every person there was a Laker fan, but we weren’t in Kansas anymore, nome sane?  The thousands of 25- to 35-year olds that live downtown don’t take their sports straight up. They have given sports its due diligence, but are making too much Bread to be swept up in proletarian ecstasy over the Circuses. That yahoo was barking up the wrong bar.

The Lakers, up by four points at the half, maintained their edge through the third quarter and most of the fourth, leading by seven points with 5:05 left.  What happened from that point shocked all of us, yahoo and non-yahoo alike. The Lakers started missing shots, turning the ball over and looking downright confused on defense. In fact, confusion on defense was rampant through the game.  Nowitzki started the game nailing 3s and long 2s with no near him. Ditto Jason Kidd and Jason Terry. Blown defensive assignments? C’mon.

The Lakers had better balance in scoring and in shot distribution than the Mavs, whose 3-point shooting got them over. They were 12-29 from the arc (41%) while the Lakers were 3-13 (23%). Strange to say, but the Mavs’ 3-pointers were mostly uncontested, unlike the Lakers’ 3-pointers.

The Mavs showed composure, grittiness and closing ability but, though it may not seem that way, they had an off night. Dirk of course was phenomenal. That’s a constant. Terry off the bench? Money. Peja’s 11 points in the 4th quarter was big, but  Shawn Marion was 1-7, Kidd was 3-12, Barea was 1-5 and 7’1” Tyson Chandler took one shot in 33 minutes.

The Lakers quarter-by-quarter scoring tells the story of this game and perhaps this season: 27-24-21-20. They slowly got worse until imploding during the last five minutes. The Mavs started big, dipped down, then turned it on at the end: 29-18-19-32.

Even the rock-steady veteran, Derek Fisher, committed two gaffes toward the end—the bad foul on Terry and his overthrown lob to Lamar Odom. That made me think of the team’s overall malaise. They obviously have communication problems. Andrew Bynum spoke of “trust issues,” and the media glommed on to it. Even Magic Johnson said, ooh, shouldn’t’ve gone public with that.  Well, he did go public, and that alone should tell you something. It tells me he couldn’t talk to anyone else about it, or had tried but got rebuffed, or—take your pick. He went public.

Bynum was dominant again, scoring 21 points with 10 rebounds. An immovable object. Odom scored 18, six boards and Kobe had 17 with six assists. Shannon Brown provided a spark off the bench. Pau Gasol had another sub-par night, scoring 12 points and eight rebounds but he is obviously off his game because of his relationship with Phil Jackson and not because of anything the Mavs are doing.

Phil Jackson poking Pau in the chest during a timeout, trying to tell him to be the thing that he’s not—a hardass–reminded me of the father exhorting his son to be a man and go hit someone. Once again, Phil: You only have one guy on your roster that can bang or even wants to bang, and that’s Bynum. Gasol never was that kind of player. Your roster is inadequate to win an NBA championship. Not enough big tough guys, okay? Stop poking Pau and start poking Mitch Kupchak.

Most of any team’s inadequacies can be laid at the feet of the owner, general manager or coach. Or all of them. The players actually have little to do with it.

Kobe said he thinks the Lakers can still win the series. He gets paid to think that—and to believe it. Let’s just say that it has never been done before. But the Lakers, infected with malaise though they may be, have the players to pull it off. Once they stop beating themselves, anything can happen.