FOREWARD: The Dallas Mavericks walked into Staples Center on Wednesday with a clear goal in mind … and it obviously wasn't to "settle for a split.''
No, it was "win Game 2.''
In 48 minutes, they stood tall, withstood a push (and a dirty shoulder/elbow/hand to the face from Ron Artest), and made the two-time-defending champions appear pedestrian, even inadequate, holding them to 32 second-half points on their way to a 93-81 Dallas victory.We discuss it on FS Southwest -- Fish, Ric Renner and Mark Followill -- in this postgame TV session:
We won't go planning any parades – and no, Laura Miller, you may not, either -- but that doesn't mean we won't take a minute to enjoy the feeling of being up 2-0 after taking consecutive wins in Los Angeles.
THE TOP STORY: As it always is in the playoffs, the win is the top story, but the way this win arrived must be taken into account. With the officials allowing players to be physical at both ends of the court, this Dallas team didn't allow themselves to stray from the task at hand by getting lost in a fruitless petitioning of the refs for calls that weren't coming.
That's two chunks of positive news for these Mavs:
1. They've stopped with the whining already. Oh how nice it would be to remove the MavVirus that has all of us thinking Chancellor Stern is agin' us. … and maybe all the Mavs themselves have to do to remove the thinking is to remove the sniveling. … which in this postseason, they have. Leave it to the Lakers to send film to the league … we want Dallas to STUDY film, not mail it.
2. Since when do the Mavs WANT the refs to allow brutish play?
Well, since NOW.Let's go to our partners at FOXSports for more video, the Rick and Dirk pressers ... oh, and Phil and Kobe, too ...
The Mavs bit their lip and gave as much as they got. Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood teamed up to control the paint, even if the statistics didn't always show it, their presence cannot be taken for granted.
Dirk Nowitzki went through the Lakers' roster and reminded each and every one of them that they can't defend him … Pau Gasol, next. Andrew Bynum, next. Lamar Odom, next. Ron Artest, next. Kobe Bryant, next.
JJ Barea, a heart with endlessly churning feet and an undying affection for the paint, regardless of what trees are planted there, tore through the Lakers defense and shrugged off any bruises waiting for him there.
In a rugged game, the Mavs left the Lakers to wallow in such stinging words as "soft" or "weak," should they be tossed. Once again, Dallas reminded us, in a voice continuously increasing in volume, that this isn't those Mavs.
This isn't the roster to have conceived those anxieties still treading the Metroplex. Instead they've left them where they were created … in the past.
(Notable: What happened in Portland just happened in LA: The OTHER team is whining … cheap-shotting … feeling otherwise powerless to stop Dallas. And Dallas' retaliation isn't to throw punches at Portland's Chris Johnson or Portland's Nic Batum or LA's Ron Artest or LA's Matt Barnes – Barnes does still play for LA, right? – no, the response is "scoreboard.'')
Nothing is over. With the Lakers being the team now heading to Dallas down 2-0, this series is far from done. There will be no parade designs brought to light. The Mavs should know better than that, even if only two players remain from that Finals' collapse.
That doesn't preclude us from our DB.com graphic artist, Beau Shoulders, whipping up a "Coffin Nails'' piece moment after the win … or us whipping up the snappy "Beat LA/Sweep LA'' headline.
Nevertheless, as they bask in the moment, as they drink in this momentary glory, they must remember that those Mavs are only four losses away … and not bask in this warmth for a second too long. Rather, any weight yet to be shifted must come to press down on the foot now firmly at the throat of the Lakers' playoff life.
As Jason Kidd said after the game:"We haven't accomplished anything yet. We know we've got to win four games to move on."
And, eight more after that if the ultimate goals are to be reached. There's time to feel good, but there's so much more to do … and the Lakers aren't going away. Champions don't slink into the dark; they fight you in the light … don't they?
THE UBERNESS OF THE UBERMAN: Is it premature to put to bed the arguments over who the best European player is? Was the debate ever warranted in the first place? Pau Gasol has the rings, and he has Kobe Bryant. You can compare their accomplishments, but you can't compare the players.
The clear disparity between the level of play from Dirk Nowitzki and Pau is as defining as any single facet of this series. It isn't a sliver. It's a chasm separating the two.
Dirk finished with 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting, seven rebounds and two assists. Yet, the stats fail to grasp what was so readily available to the eyes of those watching; to what was just as evident to the ears as the Los Angeles crowd moaned and winced anytime the Big German gathered the ball in to shoot.
He is the name of the fear lurking within all of the Lakers'followers. He is the nightmare plaguing their hopes. He is the man giving rise to Charles Barkley's slacks (we went there). He is unguardable.
He is the UberMan.
JJ BAREA, NEED WE SAY MORE: His is the smallest guy on the court, and within the ranks of Dallas players, often labeled "fearless.'' With Roddy Beaubois sitting in street clothes, how is it we're still getting the creator this team has so severely lacked outside of Dirk?
"He made the game," Tyson Chandler said of Barea.
And TY is right.
Sure, there were two fourth-quarter decisions that left something to be desired (a poorly executed alley-oop attempt to Shawn Marion and an ill-advised three-point attempt), but we'll gladly accept those in companion with the positives that far outweighed them.
Without hesitation, he capitalized while continuously attacking, often from a high pick-and-roll, and diving into the paint; creating space for layups and/or open looks for his teammates. In a breath, he changed the game in the fourth quarter by almost single handedly pushing a six-point lead to as much as 15.
In essence, he was everything we hoped Roddy B would be. Much like the game, it wasn't just the eight points and two assists he had in the fourth quarter, it was how he earned them … by imposing his will on a defense he's not supposed to be capable of doing this against.
Barea finished with 12 points and four assists … each and every one of them, especially in the fourth quarter, seeming like so much more.
They weren't "so much more'' compared to the Lakers' entire bench, however. Those dozen points were only exactly the same as the entire bench of the Lakers totaled.
TWO-WAY ‘TRIX: With the focus shifting to his defensive abilities, Shawn Marion has seen his offensive numbers dip in the playoffs. This isn't to say he's played poorly, as his perimeter defense continues to be a true strength for this team. The numbers simply haven't been what they were in the regular season, particularly the late-season surge.
For one game, he again found his offense, ending with 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting, nine rebounds, including four on the offensive end, and one assist.
Along with Brendan Haywood, Tyson Chandler, and Jason Kidd, Marion deserves a bulk of the credit for a defense that held the Lakers to 32 points in the second half on 13-of-39 shot attempts (33.3 percent).
He was active and lurked inside to help chip away at the significant rebounding advantage the Lakers held over the first two quarters (at the half: Lakers 21 rebounds to 13 for the Mavs, and 8 offensive boards to 3 for Dallas).
The Mavericks won the rebounding battle in the second half (26-to-23 on total boards, 8-to-5 on the offensive glass), and Marion, with seven total and four offensive rebounds after the intermission, was as big a part of this as anyone.
WHAT DIDN'T GO RIGHT: Put simply, the offense of Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic. As a pair they combined to go 5-of-21 from the floor for 13 points.
There were some slight positives, such as the fact that neither gave away a turnover, while Terry handed out five assists. But, to get this from two of your primary bench scorers should be an invitation to lose … it wasn't.
We know that Jet is going to have his ups and downs. Peja? The Lakers are running him off the arc, forcing/allowing him to drive and shoot on the run. That's not Peja's forte; indeed, he might be wise to pass on the teardrop shot, kick the ball back out, and re-set the play.
YOUR OFFICIAL NBA HIGHLIGHTS PACKAGE:
THE IRON HOUDINI: Once again, the third quarter got off to a rough start. In Game 1, Jason Kidd had five turnovers in the period, and in Game 2, he got off to a rough start by turning the ball over twice in the opening minutes of the third.
Thankfully, the king of BBIQ found his stride and found his way.
Kidd finished with 10 points, six assists and two rebounds … though he was only 3-of-10 from the floor, 2-of-8 behind the arc, and had four turnovers.
It does seem as though Kidd is coming out of the halftime locker room a little rusty. That bothered him more than anything LA did defensively, which included some token full-court pressure and even some Kobe-on-Kidd action, which Bryant really didn't seem to be very "into.''
THE CENTERS OF ATTENTION: Andrew Bynum had 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the first half, and seemed to be well on his way to reliving a regular season that saw him score at will against Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood.
In the second half, he had four points … though his conversion rate remained high, hitting 2-of-3 attempts … yes, only three shot attempts.
Most of the praise will go to Chandler for his role in changing the face of this team, deservedly so. He continues to battle, to lead, and to be what this team needs. In the regular season, it was Bynum that defined the gap between these teams. Through two games, the needle has edged in the other direction.
And Chandler is a major reason as to why, but we can't ignore what Haywood has brought to the table since the playoffs opened, and in this series. While his offense has left a lot to be desired, what he's given on the defensive side of the ball has been immense.
People came into the series talking about the impact of Bynum, Gasol and Odom. As of this moment, it's being defined by Dirk, Chandler and Haywood.
The Mavs built their team for this express purpose. The building is holding up.
ALWAYS THE GOOD CITIZEN: With 24 seconds to play, and the game already lost, Ron Artest allowed his frustration to guide his hand, and his shoulder, and his elbow … as he reached out and clotheslined JJ Barea.
It was a dirty play, and we say it will likely garner Artest a suspension for at least one game, just as it had him tossed from this contest.
''It's not a basketball play, so we'll see what happens,'' Barea said.
Lakers coach Phil JackZen thinks he knows what will happen ... and what should happen.
"It's uncalled for," said Jackson. "It's a good chance he'll be suspended, but I hope not."
There's no denying this was a dirty play, brought about by both the sorry showing from his team, and his own lacking performance, but … as we think about it, as Mavs followers, do we really want Artest to be suspended?
Can Los Angeles do worse than 13 points on 5-of-18 shooting, including 1-of-7 behind the arc, through two games with little defensive impact?
Artest is stopping the ball on offense, failing to stop Dirk on defense, and losing his mind at game's end.
Suspend or don't suspend, Commish. We're cool either way.
MAVSELLANEOUS: The Lakers missed their first 15 3-point attempts before Bryant drained their first at the edge of garbage time. They finished at 2-of-20 behind the arc. This likely isn't something Dallas should count on happening again this series. ... No Mavs practice on Thursday. But no, DB.com isn't sleeping in. We've got monster DB.com Mavs Podcast planned for Thursday evening! ... In one bundle: The Lakers shot only 41 percent from the floor, missed 9 of 20 free throws and scored 32 points after halftime. ... Of the 238 NBA seven-game series that have begun 2-0, the team behind has come back to win just 14 times. ... The series shifts to the AAC for Friday's game, a "Blue-Out'' in which Mavs fans are encouraged to wear royal blue as 20,000 shirts are supposed to be given out.
NUMBERS-CRUNCHING: Let's calculate …
*According to our caluculations, Kobe has one shot at the rim and just two FGs in the paint through two games.
*Dallas held the Lakers to 42.9-percent shooting in Game 1, the lowest field-goal percentage they had posted in these playoffs.
In Game 2, they held them to 41 percent.
Two games, two new lows.
*Dallas has now won three consecutive road-playoff games, and with their sixth win in these playoffs, they now have more than they've had in any single
playoffs since their Finals run.
QUOTABLE: "It's deeply rooted at this point. It's obvious that we have trust issues, individually," said Andrew Bynum. "All 13 of our guys have trust issues right now. I think it's quite obvious to anyone watching the game—hesitation on passes, and defensively we're not being a good teammate because he wasn't there for you before—little things. And unless we come out and discuss them, nothing is going to change."
Leave it to Kobe to explain -- or explain away that "trust issue'':
THE FINAL WORD: Look, we've heaped a lot of praise upon these Mavs after watching them head to L.A. and take a two-games-to-none lead in the series. We're as impressed by what we've seen as anyone. The raves printed above are real, if not excessive (at this point in time), but we're not fooling ourselves, and we hope the Mavs aren't either.
This series isn't over.
Dallas is right where it wants to be at this moment – you wouldn't trade spots, would you? -- but they aren't yet where they want to be in the next. Against a team as talented as the Lakers, things can flip in an instant, turning all of the above accolades into burning questions over what could have been, over what went wrong.
There's reason to be optimistic, and there's reason to be excited, but you don't stop to celebrate in the middle of a marathon … not if you want to retain reason to do so at its conclusion.
Does Dallas have what it takes to get this done?
"Instead of talking about it," Carlisle said, maybe tired of fielding this question for so long, "we're just going to play."