First Impressions: LA 112, Mavs 108
For some peace and understanding in the immediate aftermath of this one, we reflect on March 31st 2011 ... a date that was supposed to determine the Dallas Mavericks' fate last season.
Dallas was playing the Los Angeles Lakers for what would be the second seed in the playoffs and home-court advantage in what would be their second-round tilt. Despite the buildup, Dallas got drubbed, you will recall, and the title chances were declared dead.
We all know how that ended.
Sunday's matchup carried some of the similar weight as Dallas was prepped for a climb in the Western Conference standings. The Mavericks reside in sixth place, with the Lakers in third, with the matchup billed as a potential first-round preview, sans Kobe Bryant.
With the 112-108 OT loss, Dallas now seems more likely than ever to face the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.
"We're going day-to-day here and we're trying to earn our way in to the playoffs,'' Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "We'll worry about matchups later.''
Want deep-as-a-Frisbee statistical highlights? Dirk Nowitzki paced Dallas with a game-high 24 points and 14 rebounds. The Mavericks also enjoyed 21 points and four assists from Jason Terry and 20 points from Delonte West.
Los Angeles also had three players score 20 points, led by Andrew Bynum's 23 points and 16 rebounds. Trade-deadline acquisition Ramon Sessions had 22 points and five assists while Pau Gasol added 20 points and five assists of his own.
Without the NBA's leading scorer, Bryant, Bynum, battling illness of his own, helped the Lakers outmuscle Dallas down low for a 50-32 points-in-the-paint edge. Despite a solid nine-point, five-rebound and two-block showing from Brendan Haywood, Dallas simply had no answer for the Lakers' combo of Bynum and Gasol inside. Nor was Dallas able to contain Sessions, especially when West was on the bench in crunch time. (Oh, and LA cleverly assigned Metta World Ron Peace Artest Tru Warrior Whatev to guard West, a changeup that seemed to befuddle the Mavs.)
And then came the aforementioned overtime, in which it seemed everything went LA's way.
Pau Gasol made two three-pointers in this one, despite only making five all year coming into this one. It's worth noting that his final attempt from downtown looked like it was interfered with by Matt Barnes and Mark Cuban has already tweeted that he's asked the league to look into the matter.
"Yes, Mavs fans,'' Cuban said. "I have already asked the NBA to make basket interference reviewable in the last 2 minutes.''
Added coach Rick Carlisle: "It was a goaltend that was missed. And we had a one-point lead at that time, so it's a big play. ... They'll see that in black and white in New York."
Moments earlier, it appeared that a key Barnes offensive rebound was gathered while he was standing out of bounds. As with the in-the-cylinder issue ... nothing.
Let's have a look at the flurry of OT 3's and the absence of OT whistles (not in black and white, but in color!):
With the loss, Dallas now falls to 18-2 in games in which its scores 100 points or more. Prior to today, the Mavs had won 18 straight. Furthermore, Dallas is now 0-4 this season against their likely first-round opponent and must now figure out a way to counter the Lakers' strong inside presence as well as their emerging dynamic point guard Sessions.
Dallas did some thing right that have some depth. The Mavs nearly followed the blueprint used to sweep the Lakers last spring, hitting 57 percent on 3s and outshooting the Lakers, even with Dirk's (9-of-28) struggles. The Mavs even took expert care of the ball, committing only six turnovers.
"We fought,'' Dirk said, derisively calling his work that of a "volume shooter. ... You have to give them credit. They made some great plays. They got some lucky bounces especially in overtime. We had our chances I thought in the end of regulation. Sometimes it just doesn't happen your way."
But lets go back to the physical error and the mental error, and understand that they overcome any positives and offset the bad calls. Terry's drive to the rim for the tying layup with five seconds remaining was stuffed by that rim.
"I saw a clear lane to the basket,'' Jet said. "There was some misfortune there not going strong enough to the basket. (Defender) Barnes did an excellent job of getting out of the way. I thought he was going to try to take a charge or go for a hard foul and he did neither. Give him credit and I'll take the blame for that one."
And on the other end of the floor, when the Mavs were down two with 3.5 seconds left, Shawn Marion and Co. were late to issue the clock-stopping foul, and another of Dallas' many chances slipped away.
"We need to maintain our level of play right now and get into the playoffs as the sixth seed,'' Terry said. "Consistently we're coming out and giving a great effort. We're fighting on both ends of the floor. (This) was a big disappointment but you have to get over it quick because we've got Utah tomorrow."