THE TOP STORY: "I'm gonna keep this train moving. You're either on it or you are in front of it. I'm gonna keep (it) moving," Kobe Bryant said before Game 4.
But somebody oughta tell The Drama Queen that he isn't the train … or the conductor … or even a passenger.
He's just coal that the Dallas Mavericks used as fuel to propel themselves to a 122-86 win, the largest margin of victory to close out a four-game sweep in NBA history.
The Mavericks have swept the two-time defending champions in Round 2 … and while Kobe failed in "hero-mode'' earlier in the series, he was never even allowed a chance to audition for the role in Game 4. Cast for that job? Jason Terry tied the playoff record for 3-pointers made in a playoff game by hitting 9-of-10 attempts. You read that correctly, Terry made nine 3-pointers, four more than the entire Lakers team converted.
Maybe it all had with a certain looseness that comes with being so far ahead in a series ... we discussed that before the game and for fun, let us take you where few get to go: Onto the floor for pregame warmups:
Combine that with the fact that Peja Stojakovic hit all six of his attempts behind the arc and you have a fairly strong indication of which team won. Peja and Terry combined to drain 15-of-16 3-pointers in Game 4. Los Angeles made 15-of-76 (19.7 percent) for the entire series.
Peja was terrific in terms of setting himself in places where the sluggish LA defense couldn't or wouldn't rotate to, but this was Terry's game. When the Mavs needed a basket, or sought to end a rare lull, there was the Jet to bear the burden on his outstretched wings and deny any hope seeking to gain traction in the Lakers' minds.
Jason finished with 32 points (the first time he's topped the 30-point mark in a playoff game since Game 5 of the Finals in 2006) on an incredibly efficient 11-of-14 attempts overall, including that 9-of-10 behind the arc.
"Breathtaking,'' Carlisle said of Jet.
With the ghosts of his recent playoff failures finding less and less air to breathe, it's hard not to feel good for a man who has continually been the perfect example of an ideal teammate, and who has epitomized the nature of a "team-first" player. He set out with a goal of rebounding strong to bury those playoff bruises, and he's doing just that … and did so while resting a shovel over his shoulder as the Mavs stood over the grave of the 2010-11 Lakers' season.
In the last two games, Terry has averaged 27.5 points by hitting 75 percent of his shots … and notable upping that percentage to 78.6 from 3-point land.
Jet is on the record as saying he's inspired in this postseason to earn the right to finish his career as a Mav. That is an issue for another month. But today, he is a symbol of everything that is right with the Dallas Mavericks.A lot of people are doubting what we can do,'' said Jet, continuing to push his underdog theme even as the Mavs prep to play either OKC or Memphis (both of which will surely be underdogs to Dallas in the WCF.) "And still. ... the job is not finished. From Day 1 when we started in training camp, we set goals for ourselves and we set the bar real high. This was great, I don't wanna understate the meaning of this victory and getting out of the second round, but we're back in the Western Conference Finals and it's been awhile."
LET THE OTHER TEAM GRIPE: Phil JackZen's last important act in the NBA? Before the game it was announced that the league had fined him $35,000 for bitching about the officiating in the game before. Something about how Dirk and company apply well-placed knees to Pau Gasol's undercarriage.
It might be true. Except that if you reach down there on Gasol, all you're gonna find is his tail ‘tween his legs.
Once again, we champion a cause: Mark Cuban and everyone else with any official capacity associated with the Dallas Mavericks: NO WHINING.
Let Phil and Nate McMillan get the $35,000 fines. Let the ejections occur to assorted Blazers and in this series, to Artest, Odom and Bynum. Let the whiners make you out to be the bullies …
And continue to erase any thoughts on the part of the opponent, the refs and Chancellor Stern's office that you are whiners.
This is one of the reasons we are so pleased with the silence of Mark Cuban, who instinctively likes to stir it up … with challenge-talk before games and I-told-you-so's after.
The Mavs do not need any Big-Tent-barking. They just need the ball thrown up to start their third WCF appearance in the last nine years, quite a fine accomplishment under the leadership of Cuban and Donnie.
And right now, Cuban should be wearing that blue shirt and Donnie should be glad-handing dignitaries and nothing should be getting in the way of the dozen or so guys working on that floor.
THE PUNK-‘EM BLUEPRINT: You might say that Matt Barnes doesn't hold quite as valuable a blueprint as he may have once believed.
First off, there is a fun Jet-Barnes comparison (merited because of their verbal sparring after the regular-season dual): Barnes scored 13 points on 35.3 percent shooting for the entire series … and most of that came in Game 4 garbage time.
He was a non-factor (late in the game, when Dallas cleared its bench, Barnes failed to even guard Corey Brewer competently). He was a non-factor even on Twitter, where this notion that he has a secret plan that can beat Dallas will now forever remain a secret, we suppose.
"The way you get them back,'' Tyson Chandler said, "is by sending them home.''
More from TY:
WHEN THE LITTLEST MAN ISN'T THE SMALLEST MAN: JJ Barea scored 22 points, one of three Mavs bench players to score at least 20, and did so by shredding any remnants of respectability lingering within the Lakers' defense.
When Barea wanted to get somewhere … that was where he ended up.
He left Ron Artest looking like a fawn yet to earn the trust of his legs, and the rest to wander the crevasses of their scouting/game planning awareness.
One of our friends suggested that Artest guarding Barea (one of many grab-bag decisions by Phil JackZen, whose final moment was not his finest) was like a cat chasing a mouse.
Not quite. This was Barea as the cartoon mouse; Speedy Gonzales, let's say.
And Artest was a cat … but pretty much Garfield.
Often times, we've praised Barea's "heart" or his "fearlessness" in attacking the rim. After a four-game ass-whooping, the frustration of routinely watching the smallest man on the court have is his way with a once vaunted defense was too much for Andrew Bynum to bear.
In an instant in the late-going the game long-before decided but layups still easy to attain, the littlest man on the court was no longer the smallest man found there … though he lay curled up on the floor after a midsection attack from Bynum.
Barea was down for a moment. But JJB's his manhood, his dignity and his complete impact on the series towered over the cowardly Bynum.
The Mavs went about displaying their steel. Meanwhile, two Lakers (Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum) took the lesser path to revealing their core … by facing adversity with childish reactions and cheap fouls.
"Yeah (it's a cheap play), that's not a basketball play," Barea said … and he was right.
Faced with the weight of his own lack, Bynum resorted to a Flagrant 2, a dangerous and dirty play.
Let's have a look:
"No, I'm not disappointed in myself. It is what it is," Bynum said. "We got embarrassed tonight, so that's what happened."
And, so while Kobe Bryant and some other Lakers made time in the postgame to personally apologize to Barea, the embarrassment continues for Bynum. … and it lasts all summer long.
Also worth noting when you review the video: While no Mavs are throwing punches, both Dirk and Kidd react protective of their man. Assertiveness with brains.
PEJA DOESN'T REMEMBER GETTING IN A HOT TUB: Peja may not remember passing out in a hot tub, but he's clearly gone back in time.
That's a movie joke.
Peja hit all seven of his shots, including six from behind the 3-point line, to finish with 21 points … and three steals.
Anytime the crowd began to turn down its volume – and that wasn't often, another 21,000-plus embracing the Sea-of-Blue idea like it was Dear Old Mom -- there was either Terry or Peja to lift them to their feet with a huge bucket. Just before halftime, as the officials huddled for several minutes to review whether the half had ended, and even then, Terry used the moment to arm-wave the audience into a noise-making frenzy.
We've previously chronicled how Peja's presence on the court changes the face of the Mavs offense, and that truth is becoming more and more clear in these playoffs. It is especially so against a Lakers defense that is arduously slow in rotating to the ball … or in the case of some guys (Pau Gasol) seemingly unwilling to do so.
Speaking of time machines, Peja keeps getting asked if beating the Lakers helps him get over LA-related disappointment from his Sacto days.
"It's nine years ago," Stojakovic. "We had our chance. It was very emotional for us over there, but it's been so many years we all have to move on with our lives and our careers. I'm a different player and that was years ago. I'm on a different team."
For all of the headlines drawn by a handful of moves around the trade deadline, "Stoya'' may be having the largest impact on this year's playoffs of them all.
THE UBERMAN WAS STILL AS UBER AS NEEDED: It's not often that Dirk Nowitzki has been allowed to float in the background of a big game … and still enjoy the taste of victory.
Dirk was still Dirk; note the fact that he did hit seven of his 11 shots (63.6 percent) for 17 points. But the show being put on by Terry, Peja and Barea gave him the opportunity to simply pick his spots and look forward to his postgame plans to break his diet and gobble up pizza.
Dirk finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists … and endured the other cheap foul that earned a Flagrant 2 and the accompanying ejection.
"We talked about not ever letting up, not relaxing,'' Dirk said. "And you saw it even in the fourth. We were up comfortably, but we kept competing.''
Yup. Right up until when Carlisle called off the dogs and let Dirk start dreaming about pizza.
KARDASHIAN STRIKES: In another fourth-quarter example of the Lakers losing all semblance of class, Lamar Kardashain, bathed in the frustrations of this series, lowered his shoulder and went hard into Dirk from the blindside. Much like the classless move that would soon follow from Bynum on Barea, this was a cheap shot that was in no way a "basketball play."
"I was a little embarrassed … and I didn't mean anything by it," said Kardashian in a sorta-apology.
It doesn't erase the play, but at least he was man enough to own his mistake, showing a level of maturity Andrew Bynum has yet to claim. A looksee:
"That is unfortunate that those guys would do that because we're all NBA players out there and we're all playing the game and there is no need for that kind of stuff," Tyson Chandler said, before closing with a beautiful, and perhaps stinging sentiment. "We'll move on and we've got another series to prepare for."
SAYING THE RIGHT THINGS: Not that we ever truly feared or expected it, but we hoped we wouldn't see an excessive level of celebration after the game.
Any slight anxiety for this was quickly washed away. Sure, there were smiles and an upbeat tone, as there should be upon completing a sweep, but it's clear this team only views this game as one of 16 steps that must be taken to reach their true goal.
"It felt good tonight, but we know we're only half home," Chandler said. "We've got eight wins but we need eight more and that's our ultimate goal."
This was a common sentiment throughout the locker room. Players are aware of the team they've just swept, but they're more aware of the fact that their
goals have not been reached … they're only closer. Typical of this: Shawn Marion, quietly better than his opposite numbers in this series:
QUOTEBOARD: "We know these opportunities don't come along that often,'' said Terry, part of the 2006 Mavs team that botched the franchise's only opportunity to secure a title. "So we're focused on one goal. And if you do that, it's very powerful thing.''
THE MAN WHO STOPPED KOBE BRYANT: Go, Kidd.
MAVSELLANEOUS: We don't know that apologies are due from anyone who picked LA to win the series; unlike with Portland, there were logical reasons. (Really, there were.) But folks who made headline-grabbing fodder from writing "Same Ol' Mavs'' might want to offer mea culpas …Dirk-vs.-Gasol is a buried argument, right? And now it's Dirk-vs.-Kobe, OK? … Ron Artest's contribution to Game 4? He got stuffed by the rim on a breakaway dunk attempt. … Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak ate in the Mavs Media Lunch Room before the game, and if he knew it was going to be his Last Supper, maybe he woulda grabbed something more substantial than a salad. … In our effort to leave no stone unturned: We sat there fascinated as in pregame, DeShawn Stevenson got his Band-Aids applied to his neck piercings. No stone unturned – and no Band-Aids, either. … We loved Dirk's goaltending on a non-shot, the play that triggered Kardashian's tantrum. In the fourth quarter, Odom was at the free-throw line. Before the ref allowed him permission to shoot a second try, Odom decided to sneak in a practice FT – which Nowitzki angrily elevated to swat away at the rim. It was a "not in my house'' moment from Dirk. … We've seen broken merry-go-rounds rotate better than the Lakers did, and that part of that phenomenon that belongs on Jackson's shoulders in that the Lakers slogged and jogged through four games without ever fixing this issue. Dallas' perimeter ball movement was crisp and assertive in setting up its arsenal of shooters, but Phil made it look like crossed-fingers were his sole hope. … No time for Showtime. How about if it's the Mavs' time?
MAYBE GASOL JUST SUCKS?!:
Lakers people, including Kobe, are denying suggestions that his series-long struggles are the result of a recent breakup with his sweetheart – and that
he Kobe and wife Vanessa are somehow in the middle of it.
"To me, it's sad, because if there was any truth to it, that maybe you deal with it," said Gasol on Saturday, as quoted in the LA papers, , who had been made aware of the reports by family and friends. "But when there are lies, or they make up stories, it's not pleasant. I don't think it helps at any level. But it's part of the business. We're surrounded by a lot of media and media try to do their job the best way they can and some try to do that."
Well, OK. But in this series, Gasol wasn't as good as any number of Dallas players were. No disrespect to Bill Simmons, who is of the opinion that LA's roster is in a different class that the Mavs', but to us the Lakers looked talented … but slow, uninspired and, well, punk-able.
Gasol most of all.
We don't blame the LA media for digging for answers as to why a guy who a year ago was a viable candidate to be the Finals MVP is now less of a series factor than Dirk, Kidd, Jet, TY, Peja, Marion, JJB and Haywood. (We're granting that Pau may have impacted the series in a DeShawn-like way.)
Until the Lakers offer up a viable explanation – or until Gasol is spotted somewhere on a Spanish nude beach canoodling with said sweetheart – the
questions will linger.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Allow us to calculate:
*Combine the second and fourth quarters, and you find where the damage was done, as the Mavs outscored the Lakers 72-40 in those two periods.
*Shooting Clinic: Dallas hit 20-of-32 attempts behind the arc, tying an NBA record for most 3-pointers made in a playoff game … and we're not complaining about that 62.5 percent conversion rate, either.
*In the first half the Mavs hit 11-of-15 from deep, again, tying the playoff record for most 3's in a half.
*Peja's six made 3-pointers set a new career high for a playoff game. Previous high had been five.
*Peja and Terry combined to hit 15-of-16 3-pointers … setting a new NBA playoff record for most made three's by a duo in a playoff game.
*JJ Barea's 22 points set a new career playoff high.
*Barea, Terry and Stojakovic combined to score 75 points in Game 4. The Lakers bench contributed 52 points through the first three games, and 89 for the entire series … with 37 of that coming in the final game, partly due to the extended amount of garbage time granted by a 36-point win.
*Final bench tally for the series: Mavs 198. Lakers 89.
*For the second game in a row, Dallas outrebounded the Lakers: 40-to-39.
*After being demolished by the Lakers in the paint in Game 3 (56-to-20), Dallas bounced back to hold the advantage for much of the afternoon in Game 4, though L.A. would end up with a slightly higher number (44-to-38).
*"Punk ‘em"? Not so much. At 9:06 Odom committed the first Flagrant 2 foul. The score was 94-68.
After a 6-0 run by Dallas, Bynum committed the second. From that point on, Dallas continued to outscore Los Angeles: 22-18.
Maybe we've seen a "blueprint" follow the Lakers … and fallen by the wayside.
GOODBYE, PHIL: The only adjustments the Lakers made all series was to Barea. They adjusted his ribcage, his nose …
In repping Phil, the Lakers honored the retiring Jackson (winner of 11 NBA titles) by comporting themselves with all the dignity of drunken, toothless carnies.
So it's left to Rick Carlisle to handle things with class.
"The only thing I'd like to say about Phil is that his contribution to our game has been gigantic," Carlisle said. "My belief is that he'll retire for a while. But I don't know how long you can go to Montana and meditate or smoke peyote or whatever it is he does. I don't know. He's going to get bored. I mean that in an endearing way. We're talking about the greatest coach in the history of our game. ... What Phil has done is ridiculous. This is a tough series for them and this shouldn't taint what he's done and I don't believe it will."
Meditate and smoke peyote!
CARLISLE (AND LIL' CARLISLE) DOWN THE TUNNEL: A look you'll only get from DallasBasketball.com, courtesy of the hardest-working videographer in the Mavs press corps, Kevin Brolan:
Four minutes of visual gold for the Maverick fan. ... including an almost-smile from Coach.
THE FINAL WORD: "I think it means we get some rest," Carlisle said, "which is good for us. I think the challenge now is we've got to manage this period of time; I don't see a problem with that."
By finishing with a sweep, the Mavs have given themselves the gift of an extended period off … of rest.
This will be ideal for some players (see Jason Kidd), though it could serve as a detriment to the momentum built in this series, as well as the final two games against Portland. However, when faced with the possibility of an extended series versus rest, the Mavs will gladly accept this option.
There are eight down … and eight to go.