‘THE LAND OF 10,000 FAKES'
We'd like to begin this thing by setting you up and, as much as is possible, maintaining for all, a good mood. To that goal, we present you a DB.com Exclusive Video, Dirk and JJB clowning around before tipoff.
Does that amuse you enough to allow us to trudge on into Los Angeles Lakers 96, Dallas Mavericks 91?
Let's give Rick first crack at this:
The Lakers strutted into the AAC amid the frustrations of their Thursday loss to the Heat – you know, the one that led to a late-night Kobe Bryant dog-and-pony shootaround. Oh, and the ensuing missed practice on Friday in Dallas, the sort of Drama Queeny action that qualifies LA as one of sport's most beloved prime-time soap operas.
Accompanying them were their wave of tag-along fans flooding the pregame sensibilities of Dallas supporters … DFW residents, we can assume, many of them in their 20s and 30s, all of them apparently having migrated to Dallas from California, a sort of Grapes of Wrath In Reverse.
How else did all these "life-long Lakers fans'' get here? And why do all their yellow No. 24 jerseys look like they just got taken out of their protective plastic packaging?
It happens every year in downtown Dallas: The city is transformed into The Land of 10,000 Fakes.
Anyway, at times, it was almost difficult for the ear to differentiate the home team's baskets from the visitor's … though there was no comparison when Shawn Marion caught up to a Jason Kidd pass to bring the game within two with 24 seconds to play.
LIVING UP TO THE MOMENT
This may prove to be a pivotal game in the seeding race for the Western Conference, and only one Mavs player truly delivered at an elite level for four quarters:
Dirk Nowitzki had his moments. He played a solid game. But Marion seemed alone for most of the night. ‘Trix finished with 25 points, tying his season high, 12 rebounds (including seven on the offensive end) and two blocks.
While this may have not quite been the high-flying player we watched in Phoenix, the results – featuring instincts and effort -- were the same.
In a game of accepted significance, Marion was the best player on the court for Dallas.
Here's The Matrix' meeting with the media:
"I think it was a great atmosphere game,'' Marion said. "But every time we got a chance to hit a big shot, it seemed like we kept missing."
Dirk Nowitzki tried to bury a poor first-half performance (having hit only three of his nine shots) by stepping up for 10 points in the third.
With the game on the line late, the Mavs committed a disservice to their hopes for the win by too often allowing the offense to run through others. Jason Terry has been labeled the team's "closer,'' earning the moniker by being one of the highest scoring players for the period this season. More often than not, he's been able to make his impact late.
Nowitzki had begun to assert himself in the third quarter, and continuously reminded us that the Lakers are no different than any other team in one respect … they can't guard Dirk.
So, how does The UberMan play nine minutes in the deciding quarter and only take two shots, both coming in a one-minute span between the 3:10 and 2:18 marks?
Dirk's late-game line-drive pass attempt inside to Tyson Chandler (when Chandler and everyone else in the building assumed correctly that Dirk should shoot it himself as Dallas was down 89-84) resulted in a crushing turnover and was a factor in Nowitzki's numbers drying up. Marion took a crunch-time baseline jumper while passing up an opportunity to dump to an unguarded Jason Kidd at the arc. And Pau Gasol did a fine job overplaying Dirk on the perimeter, trying to prevent a reception.
But still .. two shots for Dirk? We're a little worried by the fact that someone other than the Mavs' best player has been labeled their "closer," and that here, a commitment to that notion lessened the Mavs' chances at winning.
A P.S. here: Some media outlets are raving about Dirk's 25. What he did even better than score 25 was work as a facilitator, kicking the ball outside after sucking the defense into him. But this was well short of being a "great'' game for Dirk. And that's not just us saying that; that's Mavs staffers telling us that.
Jason Terry' shot was off. There was no sweet spot. There was no arms-spreading for takeoff. Jet ended hitting only six of his 16 attempts, including 1-of-5 behind the arc and a missed eight-footer late, and had as many turnovers as rebounds, assists and steals combined (2).
Jet's been less explosive on offense of late. He's not got three games out of four scoring 13 or fewer. And his habit of squirting cologne on stinky
results really doesn't help.
"That last one I had," Terry said, "I couldn't believe that one rolled out. It was like that all night.'' Well, let's say he did "have it.'' That the eight-foot one-handed turnaround push shot didn't roll out.
What Jet is skipping past is this: That's not the shot Dallas wanted. The Mavs were behind by 3 with 13 seconds left. You take a free layup instead of a 3, yes, and try to overcome LA in a free-throw contest. But this was no free layup. The 3 was preferable but unavailable.
So really, even if Jet would've "had'' it, Dallas wouldn't have "had'' much of anything.
Combine this with what may have been the worst performance we've seen from Roddy Beaubois (Carlisle certainly won't call him "Rodrigue" tonight), along with three overall poor quarters from Jason Kidd and JJ Barea … and it's a little easier to understand how LA survived this.
The Lakers' backcourt wasn't flawless. Starter Derek Fisher went scoreless. Kobe Bryant hit only 6-of-20 shots for 16 points, his greatest impact coming in the third quarter when he sustained an ugly ankle sprain and dramatically limped off the floor.
Kobe being Kobe, of course, he returned to the game – even after he thought the sprain was so bad and his season was "done.''
"Scared shitless'' is how he described himself … and yet he re-entered the game to take another series of poorly-considered off-balance shots! He's not human, this guy! He's a Black Mamba, a Black Swan, a … Drama Queen, is what he is.
"I had to stop being a chump, suck it up and go out and play,'' he said.
Andrew Bynum may have dominated the paint for 22 points and 15 rebounds, causing Tyson Chandler to look out of synch all night, but it may be the play of the guards that decided this game. As much as Bynum took the game, Dallas' guards may have given it away.
Roddy B was a mess. Example: He was specifically re-inserted by Carlisle for the final four minutes of the first half, entering in tandem with Dirk. Strategically, it made obvious sense while providing a glimpse into Dallas' gameplan: The Mavs loved the idea of Beaubois being guarded by LA backup Steve Blake, and on that first possession, Dallas spent almost 24 seconds re-cocking in attempts to set up Roddy B … and finally, he threw the ball away.
He'd get another similar chance a moment later … same result.
We often complain when Roddy B gets 15 minutes of burn, which means we complain often. Here he got 14, and it was plenty.
Those of us calling to FREE RODDY B have to shut our pie holes for a couple of days.
Jason Kidd had his hands full dealing with Kobe. Barea was almost trying too hard, barreling into the lane in attempts to make the impossible possible. But their errors were "effort errors.'' Roddy B's?
Physically, he ought to be able to have his way with Blake, and even with Derek Fisher.
So it wasn't physical.
Too bad he's not superhuman like Kobe, who explained how he's going to deal with a foot he feared might be turned permanently sideways.
"I'll just do what I always do,'' DQ said. "Don't sleep, get treatment around the clock and I should be fine.''
LONG ENOUGH, BUT …
Part of the point of Dallas' Chandler/Haywood tag team was always to be able to match LA's unique combination of length and skill inside. Gasol, Bynum, Odom … few Mavs foes can do it quite like that.
And here, few Mavs could do anything to stop them.
Chandler got his minutes, playing 35:28, but failed to impact the game significantly statistically, and by the end of the game, seemed to be bouncing (or bounced) around everywhere but where passers were looking for him … at least a few passes flew by Chandler in the post as he fought with Bynum … and a bulk of credit for this must go to the Lakers bigs, with Bynum leading the way.
Chandler and Haywood would combine to shoot 3-of-8 for eight points, 14 rebounds and three blocks. Bynum was single-handedly dominant against the combo, with 22 points and 15 rebounds.
"It looks like he's kind of figuring things out," Bryant said of Bynum. "I don't know if he's putting something in his cereal in the morning or what."
Somebody apparently suggested to The Drama Queen that Bynum is developing into a best-player-on-a-team sort of guy.
"Let's not hit the crack pipe yet," said Bryant, who prefers being THE best-player-on-a-team sort of guy. "But he's sensational."
E FOR EFFORT
Dallas had its chances, and their open looks, to alter the outcome of this game. Shots that we generally accept as high-percentage attempts did not fall early, and seemed to miss at the most inopportune moments. Every time it felt like a surge was trying to build, there would come a miss or an errant pass, and the momentum would trickle away.
Both Rick Carlisle and Jason Terry noted the strong team "effort."
Said Carlisle: "It's a tough loss. Obviously it's a game that had meaning. I'm disappointed with the outcome, but not the effort."
Said Terry: "We're disappointed with the outcome, excited about the effort."
And yeah, the effort was there. Still, there's little solace to take from this fact. It may be a little late in the season to claim moral victories because the "effort" was there. These teams will meet again in Los Angeles on March 31 in the rubber game of the three-meeting season series which means there is still a chance to claim something more tangible than a moral victory.
Really, shouldn't "effort'' be something that can be assumed at this point in the season, with the stakes what they are?
DEFENSE AS A WHOLE
Taken as a whole, the Mavs defense did not play poorly. They held the Lakers to 44.6-percent shooting. Only allowed Kobe to sink 30 percent of his attempts. And, kept Pau Gasol (18 points, 6-of-14 field goals) and Lamar Odom (4-of-11 for eight points) from going completely nuts.
As a whole, this is good.
However, there seemed to be far too many instances of confusion at the defensive end that allowed the Lakers to capitalize uncontested at the rim. Note that Los Angeles finished the night with 56 points in the paint, almost 12 above their season average. A late-game Ron Artest offensive rebound and putback -- a play on which he rag-dolled Kidd in a way that is probably outside the rules -- typified Dallas' problem in getting that one play to go its way.
Kidd discusses that play and more ...
DIRK'S BIG PICTURE
"We've already beat some of the best teams in the league, we beat the Lakers before a couple of months ago, so I don't think we have to hide from anybody,'' Dirk said. "We can beat anybody, we can also lose to anybody. That's the fine line in this league and it's going to come down to who is play well in the playoffs."
We can buy that, we suppose. Dallas did not play sharply here and was still down a bucket in the final moments.
Dallas faced a "playoff atmosphere'' and got Kobe on a night when he reeked on ice … and still couldn't win.
Throw a big wad of wet towels, Dirk, and then speak up, son ...
*Marion in two games: Helps hold ‘Melo and Kobe to a combined 11-of-35. Scores 47 points with 20 rebounds. Does it all with a rib injury that requires him to live in the hyperbaric chamber. Don't throw that soft "soft'' crap in here.
*The Mavs have lost two straight homies and are 2-3 in their last five games.
*LA is 9-1 since the All-Star Break.
* The Mavericks went just 4-of-16 (.250) from beyond the arc. That result snaps a streak of 35 consecutive games with six-plus 3-pointers made, which is the third-longest streak of all-time.
* Phil JackZen earned his 600th victory with the Lakers, becoming only the fifth coach in NBA history to reach that mark with one franchise.
*The biggest number of all: The Mavericks (47-19) are only a half-game ahead of Los Angeles (47-20) for second place in the Western Conference. And something to consider about the stretch run: The Lakers play 11 of their last 15 games at home.
"I reminded the team before we went out. I said, '(Dallas) is a team that can beat us in the postseason. For whatever reason, whenever we play Dallas it doesn't have that same energy that we have when we play against (OKC) or when we play against San Antonio. It's important to understand that this team is a serious contender and that we approach this game like that."
It's also important to understand that you should be on the lookout for more McKinneyDentist.com Quoteboard coming up!
We've heard and read a few times the opinion that "Dallas' execution was good.'' No it wasn't. Not in the final four minutes it wasn't – which means this group goofed up at the one thing it does best … Kobe Bryant exits with the ankle. In comes Steve Blake. A win for Dallas, right? Blake was 3-of-5 from the 3-point line off the bench for the Lakers, two of those in the final minute of the third quarter, and the Lakers jump a two-point lead up to 10."That's when you have to take advantage,'' said Jason Terry of Kobe being out. "And we weren't able to do it.'' … Dallas has now lost three of their past five games, making the fact that they have also won 20 of their last 24 seem almost distant. … We mean this in the nicest way, because ‘Trix has been terrific in the last two games. But should Shawn Marion really be this team's consistently best player? … Peja Stojakovic was out again, having participating in morning shootaround on a limited basis while nursing a sore back and neck. ... The Mavs blocked nine shots. So they got that going for them. … We'll deal with some of this in Sunday Mavs Donuts, but the Phil Jackson-Mark Cuban ‘feud'' is, to us, some damn tired vaudeville that we won't bother with here, OK? … We're simply never going to be convinced that Brian Cardinal playing small forward gives Dallas any advantage in any possible way. Sorry. Loved the hard foul on Matt Barnes and love how Barnes started to bow up only to decide he didn't want to wrassle with Country Strong. But none of that makes The Custodian a small forward. …
HERE'S YOUR HIGHLIGHT PACKAGE:
THE FINAL WORD
The young woman wobbled near press row with handicapped by too much to drink and too little to wear. Her skin-tight No. 24 Lakers jersey was accented by a purple-and-gold feather boa, and throughout the game, she let everyone (especially Fish, Dugat and Brolan of The 75-Member Staff) know of her intentions to marry Kobe.
When it was over, and her fiance's team had beaten Dallas, she rubbed salt (maybe salt licked from the rim of yet another guzzled drink) into our wounds.
"Yah, Dallas,'' Mrs. Bryant slurred. "The only team to ever be in the Finals and lose a 4-to-nothing lead.''