"We came here,'' Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said after Wednesday's 93-81 win at Los Angeles, a dominant effort that provides Dallas with a 2-0 lead in the series, "to win two games.''
Mission accomplished, in two games and on Wednesday, in three statistical categories. Want calculations? Allow me:
Category 1: Individual stuff – Up and down the totem pole, there isn't a single Laker who is outperforming his Dallas counterpart. Ron Artest shot 4-of-10 and made his only impact on J.J. Barea's forehead, clotheslining the little Mav in the final seconds to possibly earn the "Tru Warrier'' a Game 3 suspension. Pau Gasol was 5-of-12 and laughably invisible, especially considering the army of dopes who have spent years comparing him favorably to the incomparable Dirk Nowitzki. Derek Fisher was 2-of-7 and is being provided no one to guard. Lamar Odom was 3-of-12 and may be asked to return his Sixth Man of the Year trophy. Steve Blake was 0-of-5, as immune to scoring as he now is to the chicken pox. Andrew Bynum was a relative position with 18 points and 13 rebounds, but he was countered by Dallas bigs Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood. Kobe Bryant finished with 23 points on 8 of 20 shooting and while he wasn't "clutch'' in Game 1, in Game 2 he never got the chance to be "clutch'' as he led the two-time defending champions to a paltry 32 second-half points.
Nowitzi led the Mavericks with 24 points and befuddled coach Phil Jackson's attempts at adjustments. Shawn Marion scrapped for 14 points and nine rebounds. And even reserve point guard Barea won his battle, his 12 points matching the production of the entire LA bench.
Category 2: Team stuff – Because of their 11 straight years of 50-plus-win seasons and playoff appearances, Dallas' failure to have won a title is considered "underachievement.'' There is no denying the facts: Dallas won just one playoff series in the past four years before ousting Portland last week. But Mavs personnel keep arguing that this team isn't that team, that the likes of Chandler and Marion and Jason Kidd provide Dallas with the sort of veteran resiliency that can endure a 10-0 LA run in the first and still get themselves their own 10-point lead in the final quarter … and in doing so, can render a talent like Bryant useless.
Kobe Bryant went scoreless in the fourth quarter until he made a pair of innocuous free throws with 3:11 remaining
Said Marion: ''We made our presence felt on both ends of the floor. We did a good job of handling their pressure and just going out there and doing what we've been doing all postseason, just playing good defense and just playing our style of play.''
Category 3: Historical stuff – This is the biggie to me. How many times have road teams won the first two games of a best-of-seven series? You just saw it occur for just the 19 th time EVER.
In the previous 18 occurrences, 15 times that road-warrior team went on to win the series.
I'll go beyond that (thanks to DB.com researcher Nick Reed):
Good teams lose road games in the playoffs. Great teams lose road games in the playoffs.
There is this mythological thought that if you eventually are crowned champion, you must've hurricaned your way through all comers, including while on the road.
It ain't so.
I'll group it by series, Round 1 on the left, Finals on the far right, with the W/L summary after the = sign.
• 2010 Lakers: 1-2, 2-0, 1-2, 1-2 = 5-6
• 2009 Lakers: 1-1, 1-2, 2-1, 2-1 = 6-5
• 2008 Celtics: 0-3, 0-3, 2-1, 1-2 = 3-9
• 2007 Spurs: 2-0, 2-1, 1-1, 2-0 = 7-2
• 2006 Heat: 1-2, 2-0, 1-2, 1-2 = 5-6
• 2005 Spurs: 2-0, 1-2, 3-0, 1-2 = 7-4
• 2004 Pistons: 2-0, 1-2, 2-1, 1-1 = 6-4
• 2003 Spurs: 2-1, 1-2, 3-0, 2-1 = 8-4
• 2002 Lakers: 1-0, 2-0, 2-2, 2-0 = 7-2
• 2001 Lakers: 1-0, 2-0, 2-0, 3-0 = 8-0
What's my point here? Even most eventual champions struggle on the road; seven of the last eight NBA champs have lost at least four road games in the postseason.
Imagine the advantage a team can have if it DOESN'T lose many road games? If it's best-of-the-decade success as a regular-season road team (Dallas was 28-13 this year) carries over to the postseason? If the belief that they can "Beat LA!'' is accelerated by a two-game visit to SoCal during which they were able to "Sweep LA!''?
A week ago, Dallas was burdened by a 2-18 record in its last 20 road playoff games. Suddenly, since last week in Portland, the Mavs have won three road games in a row … more wins in five days than they'd collected in the previous five years.
And now the Lakers are the ones issuing wistful proclamations.
"We're not very good at home the last two games,'' Kobe said, "so going to Dallas might do us some damn good.''
That's the sentiment in the bad guys' room. And over in the 2-0 room?
"If you would have told me before that we were going to win both games, it would have been hard to believe,'' said Dirk. "But I think we earned it."
And almost always, when you earn 2-0 on the road, you earn a pass to the next round.