Monthly Archive for May, 2011

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Lakers 92, Mavs 98: Game 3 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening Game 3 playoff road contest at Dallas, the Lakers looking to climb out of a 2-0 hole, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Odom*, Gasol and Bynum
Mavericks: Kidd, Stevenson, Marion, Nowitzki and Chandler
*Odom started in place of the suspended Ron Artest

12:00 An incredible amount of energy was oozing around American Airlines Arena on this Friday night in May, with Dallas fans all wearing bright blue t-shirts, the music pumping at full volume, and a bunch of Texans thirsty for Purple and Gold blood. L.A., however, had responded so many times in such environments, and with Odom in the starting line up, L.A. opened up very strong on D, first rotating as its coaches wanted to twice run Dallas off the three-point line, then forcing a turnover on Dirk with similarly good rotation on the next trip.

5:48 The first six minutes answered the question about whether or not the Lakers would look like, well, the Lakers, as they played very well at both ends to open a 14-10 lead on Gasol’s tip in of Odom’s miss. Odom was an early matchup problem for Dallas, contributing something in each statistical category. However, Dallas got an immediate boost on the next trip when Bryant was whistled for his second PF as Dirk went up for a jumper.

0:39.9 A quarter full of runs concluded OK for L.A., who had endured a 9-2 Mavs run starting with Kobe’s foul on Dirk, preceding back-to-back open triples from the German. L.A.’s response was an 8-1 burst to go up 24-20 … but then came another Mavs run, this time 9-0, creating a five-point hole. The final bucket of the period came in and-1 fashion from Gasol, drawing Chandler’s second PF in the process. Bynum and Brendan Haywood also had two PF’s each. Alas, the Mavs hit four threes to counter a massive paint points advantage (18-2) for L.A., led by 10 from Bynum.

9:41 Against an odd LAL line up not yet used this season (Blake, Brown, Bryant, Joe Smith and Gasol), Dallas did its work with sixth man Jason Terry, who made his third field goal of the quarter (nine total points) to put the Mavs up 38-32, countering Blake’s three-pointer (he’d missed all five of his Game 2 attempts). In NBA history news, Bryant became the third greatest all-time playoff scorer with a jumper that pushed him past Shaquille O’Neal, only Kareem and Michael Jordan ahead of him.

6:16 Needing a boost from its bench in a big way, L.A. got that Blake three, then five straight points from Brown on a reverse slam and corner triple, though he missed a chance for seven straight by blowing an open layup, undecided whether to dunk or lay it up. As such, L.A. trailed 39-38.

0:00.9 A terrific end to the half erased a 6-point Mavs lead, as Bryant and Bynum captained an 11-2 run that produced a 51-47 lead at the break. Bynum was up to a team-high 14 points, Kobe had nine and Odom 10, while 1-of-2 free throws just before the halftime buzzer from Brown got him to six points off the pine. The Mavs out-rebounded L.A. 20-17, got a combined 12-of-18 FG’s for 30 points from Dirk and Terry, and made five threes to L.A.’s two yet trailed by four due to the 34-12 paint point edge.

8:16 After the Mavs cut it to two with a Marion leaner, L.A. responded with a Gasol driving layup around Dirk (the Lakers coaches have been asking for the Spaniard to attack the German) and then an open three from Fisher, opening a 58-51 lead. Both hoops were courtesy of Kobe passes, for hit third and fourth assists of the game.

6:51 In big games, each possession is so important, and the Lakers blew a chance to go up nine points when Fisher couldn’t convert a 2-on-1 transition opportunity. As often happens, Dallas responded immediately, getting back-to-back three-pointers (seven in the game) to quickly cut the lead to one.

0:41.8 So, we’ve talked about how it’s been a full game of momentum, right? After that Mavs push, L.A. responded by going inside to Gasol and Odom, then getting a tough Bryant baseline jumper after Marion’s travel to make it 70-64. The lead stayed at six after three thanks to an incredibly athletic play from Brown, who tipped in Kobe’s just-missed pull-up three with 1.9 seconds left.

The Lakers would have 12 minutes, and a six-point cushion, to make this a series.

11:00 Another wasted opportunity for L.A., as Bynum and Odom both missed open jumpers with the chance to push the lead to eight or ten, and Dallas countered with a Peja Stojakovic three to cut the Purple and Gold lead in half.

9:29 And back came the Lakers, getting an and-1 from Bynum (up to 21 points and nine boards to lead L.A. in both categories), plus a pretty driving layup from Brown, easily having his best playoff game with 10 points and three boards in 15 minutes. Dallas continued to miss, but L.A. couldn’t push its lead to double digits despite three chances as Barnes, Blake and Odom all missed jumpers. Would that wind up biting the Lakers?

3:43 Bryant drained consecutive jumpers over Kidd, but Dallas just kept draining 3-pointers, getting one from Dirk, then another from Peja (11 for the team). Bryant then turned the ball over, and fouled Kidd with the Mavs in the bonus. The six-point lead was down to one.

0:16.0 It went from bad to much worse for L.A., who after being up 87-81 suddenly found themselves down 97-91. The Mavs went up two points when the Lakers missed a rotation in the corner, leaving Terry wide open for a three, though Odom managed to tie the score at 91 with a tough hoop on the other end. But then came a driving layup from Dirk, a missed layup from Odom, and a failure to grab an offensive board with 39 seconds left after a Stojakovic miss. It appeared to be a foul on Chandler underneath, but instead, Fisher was whistled for a foul with just seven seconds left on the shot clock, 18.7 on the game clock.

The collective sting was visible on L.A.’s bench, as Terry made both free throws to create a four-point lead. It was just more free throws and missed Lakers shots from there, before the final score read 98-92, Mavericks. The Lakers had played hard and well, controlling the contest throughout, before the game and the Mavs ran away in the final three minutes. Few things sting as much as wasted opportunities in critical times, but it had suddenly happened twice to the Lakers.

The three-peat was truly in its 11th hour, and it all happened so fast, L.A. controlling both Games 1 and 3 before collapsing as they hadn’t done with their current make up of players whose recent playoff memories consist of hoisting two straight NBA titles.

0 Teams in NBA history that have come back from 3-0 deficits to win a playoff series, the task now laid out in front of the Lakers.

12 Three-pointers made by the Mavericks, to just three for the Lakers, a pattern from each game of the series.

15 More free throws attempted by the Mavs (29-14) despite L.A. outscoring Dallas in the paint 56-20, numbers that generally don’t add up in the box score.

18 Points in the paint in the first quarter alone for the Lakers, who dominated inside but couldn’t take early control of the game with Dallas making four first quarter triples.

32 Points for Dirk Nowitzki, including nine in the fourth quarter, to lead all scorers. Jason Terry added 23 off the Mavericks bench.

38.4 Shooting percentage for Pau Gasol, who made just 5-of-13 shots for 12 points. L.A.’s other 7-footer, Andrew Bynum, was terrific with 21 points and 10 boards on 9-of-16 field goals, while Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom both made 8-of-16 attempts to total 35 points.

Odom Likely to Start Game 3

Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, the three big men so crucial to L.A.’s consecutive championships, will likely find themselves starting together for the first time since Gasol came over in February of 2008.

While Phil Jackson declined to definitively state who would replace Ron Artest — suspended for one game after a blow to the head of J.J. Barea in L.A.’s Game 2 loss to Dallas — in the starting line up, Odom said he thinks it will be him after the team’s Friday morning shootaround.

This past season, the three bigs have played together for less than three minutes … total … but in a hugely important Game 3 with the Lakers trying to dig themselves out of a 2-0 hole, Jackson appears to be putting his best players on the floor for as much time as possible.

A major reason Jackson hasn’t tinkered with that (huge) lineup before is his preference to ensure that at least two of the three bigs remain on the floor at all times, which is more difficult from a rotation standpoint when the three start. But assistant coach Brian Shaw said in this game, the bench rotation may not be effected too much, as Odom could just play more minutes.

In other words, Odom can open the game with the starters in a bit more of a guard role with Bryant looking to attack more from a wing position, but still do his usual thing with the second unit once guys like Matt Barnes and Shannon Brown check in.

As if we needed any more intrigue heading into Game 3.

Down 2-0 Yet Full of Laughs

After falling for a second consecutive time at home, some may have been surprised to see the Lakers laughing, joking and exuding confidence after Thursday’s practice, particularly due to the team’s subpar play in Game 2.

“Everything will be all right,” said Lamar Odom.

“It’s a game and we know it’s a game and we play it and we play it hard and we anticipate winning in Dallas,” said Phil Jackson.

“It’s not that big of a deal to win two games in a row,” said Kobe Bryant. “Stop acting like you’ve never won two games in a row.”

Of course, there are the stats that show teams losing their first two games at home have come back to win only three of 18 series. Yet the Lakers are 1-1 in such circumstances, coming back to beat San Francisco in 1969, while being swept by eventual champion Portland (featuring Luke Walton’s father Bill) in 1977.

It would appear that this current group of Lakers — even if they didn’t play like it in Game 2 or down the stretch of Game 1 — would cite the 1969 situation before that of 1977, however inapplicable they are heading into Game 3 in Dallas.

All in all, the Lakers know their words don’t really mean anything, and vowed to show what they’re made of in the court. They’ll have their chance in less than 24 hours.

Kobe’s Postgame Quotes

Below is a transcription of Kobe Bryant’s postgame session after L.A.’s Game 2 loss to Dallas:

On Andrew Bynum’s postgame comments about trust issues:
Bryant: I think the trust that he’s referring to is being able to help each other on the defensive end of the floor. You saw a lot of lay-ups. He gets frustrated when he supports a guard coming off the screen and roll and nobody supports him when a big’s rolling to the basket. It’s quite simple.

On if the Lakers are now desperate:
Bryant: Desperate is a strong word. I think, when you play desperate you don’t play your best basketball. What we need to do is relax, we need to focus on what we’re doing wrong, and the mistakes that we’re making, and we have plenty to review. [We need to] lock in on that and go into Game 3 and minimize those mistakes. You know, playing calm basketball but with a relentless energy. And I think if we do that we’ll be fine.

On if the team was playing tense or losing poise:
Bryant: I don’t think so. I think we were frustrated because defensively we weren’t very good at all. They got open look after open look.

On heading to Dallas down 2-0:
Bryant: To me it’s no different. We’re not very good at home the last two games so going to Dallas might do us some damn good.

On if the team is mentally tired:
Bryant: No, it’s hard but you couldn’t possibly expect this to be easy. If you want to make history you have to do historic things.

On what L.A. has to do to turn things around:
Bryant: We just gotta win one game. Everybody’s trippin’. Win one game, then you move on to the next one, it’s as simple as that.

On the team’s bench play:
Bryant: It’s important. It doesn’t hurt. We have bigger things to correct besides the play of our bench. We have to do a much better job of getting into a rhythm on the defensive end of the floor.”

On if the unfamiliarity of being down 2-0 could spark something positive:
Bryant: Sure … you know, I think there’s some truth to that. It has to spark some type of energy and motivation to come in and play, especially now that everybody’s, I’m sure, (betting) against us. If you can’t find motivation in that than you shouldn’t be playing.

On Pau Gasol:
Bryant: He’s fine. They’re not going to let him score easily. They’re going to double-team him … he’ll be fine, we’ll go to Dallas and get him some easy looks, some easy opportunities, free him up a little bit.

Artest Out, Phil Mum on Game 3 SF Starter

In the regular season, the Lakers enjoyed the rare type of NBA consistency that saw four starters play all 82 games, and Phil Jackson have to use only two line ups all year:

1) Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol
2) Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum

He’ll have to try a third line up, however, in Game 3 of the Western Semi’s against Dallas, since Artest was suspended for a game for “swinging his arm and striking the face of the Dallas Mavericks’ J.J. Barea,” according to the NBA. The incident occurred with just 24.4 seconds left in Game 2, which L.A. lost 93-81.

Jackson wasn’t going to tell us who will start at small forward after Thursday’s practice, revealing only that we (the media) would find out prior to the game.

Judging from the past few seasons, however, Jackson is not likely to want to disrupt his front court rotation, so starting Odom would be unlikely. We may have expected Matt Barnes to start at small forward, with Luke Walton getting reserve minutes, and Kobe Bryant sliding up to the 3 at times in which Jackson has Shannon Brown at the two … but an alternative line up would be Brown starting at the two, and Bryant at the three.

Artest really struggled offensively in the first two games, hitting only 27.8 percent of his shots, including 1-of-7 from three-point range after a really solid shooting performance in Round 1.

Barnes attempted only eight shots in Games 1 and 2, making two, in 13.0 mpg, but the Lakers surely hope he’ll be able to better establish a rhythm by playing big road minutes in a playoff game, something he’s never done in Purple and Gold. Brown went a combined 6-of-10 in the first two games, missing the only three triple he made but finished well at and around the rim.

We’ll see how it all pans out in a bit over 24 hours when Game 3 tips in Dallas.

L.A. – Dallas Postgame 2 Numbers

We compiled some of the more interesting numbers from L.A.’s Game 2 loss to Dallas, the Lakers falling into such a hole for the first time since the 2008 Finals, when they dropped their first two road games at Boston.

0 Three-pointers made by the Lakers until 2:43 remained in the game, when Kobe Bryant hit one in transition with L.A. down 14 points, too little too late. L.A. missed its first 15 shots from three, finishing at 2-for-20 when Artest added one in the final seconds. Dallas, meanwhile, connected on eight triples before L.A. made its first, a difference of 24 points.

1 Ejection in the game, as Ron Artest was tossed for a blow to J.J. Barea’s head in the final seconds. Phil Jackson said it was likely Artest would be suspended for Game 3.

6 More points in the paint for the Lakers (42-36), a very small margin when considering how both teams play. The Mavs effectively packed the paint defensively, and L.A. couldn’t bring them out with such an inability to hit perimeter shots.

8 Fourth quarter points for Mavs sub J.J. Barea, who got his Chris Paul on while consistently getting into L.A.’s paint late in the game. Bryant called L.A.’s pick-and-roll coverages “horrible” as a whole, though they were particularly bad late in the game.

9 Free throws missed by the Lakers, who finished 11-of-20. Pau Gasol missed 3-of-6, and finished with only 13 points by also missing 7-of-12 field goals. Dallas, in contrast, made 17-of-21 free throws to finish +6 at the charity stripe.

12 Bench points from the Lakers, who were just 6-of-23 from the field, including Lamar Odom’s 3-for-12 and Steve Blake’s 0-for-5, all from three-point range. Dallas went for 30 off its bench.

13 Rebounds for Andrew Bynum, consistently strong all game by also adding 18 points on 8-of-11 field goals. Seven of his boards came on the offensive end, helping L.A. score eight second chance points.

23 Points for Kobe Bryant, three short of surpassing Shaquille O’Neal for all-time playoff scoring, on 9-of-20 field goals. Bryant added three assists, but didn’t grab a rebound in his 38 minutes.

24 Points for Dirk Nowitzki to lead all scorers, behind an efficient 9-of-16 from the field and 4-of-5 from the foul line, his second straight excellent game.

30 Combined minutes played by Steve Blake and Matt Barnes without a point. Blake missed all five of his shots from three-point range, while Barnes missed his only two attempts.

Lakers 81, Mavs 93: Game 2 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening home playoff contest against the Dallas Mavericks, the Lakers looking to avenge a last-minute Game 1 loss, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Mavs: Kidd, Stevenson, Marion, Nowitzki, Chandler

9:18 It was a pretty offensive start for the Lakers, who made their first four shots to take an early 10-6 lead. Bryant hit two jumpers, Gasol a face-up shot on Nowitzki and Artest the opening jumper around a curl (he was 1-for-8 in Game 1). But at the other end, Dallas got two 3′s from Stevenson, who scored not a single point in Game 1, to hang along.

5:23 Dallas made 9-of-20 threes in the series opener, a major factor in the contest, despite L.A. knowing the importance of closing out those opportunities … this made it more surprising that L.A. allowed 3-of-5 triples to start Game 2, though one did come in transition after Bryant gambled for a steal, and another off an offensive board. The pretty O had stopped for L.A…

0:00 Sure enough, it was an ice cold LAL team after the opening two minutes, just three field goals going down in the final 10-odd minutes, putting them at only 36 percent for the quarter. Dallas, meanwhile, got yet another triple — this time from Nowitzki after Odom for some reason helped off him — to open a 26-20 lead out of the quarter. It was just not a good quarter at either end for L.A., particularly from the big men who could not establish anything meaningful inside.

7:52 Before the game, Phil Jackson asked not for more intensity or focus, but rather for his team to just try and enjoy things. He sensed that they were too tense, and wanted them to loosen up. He was right, because they were pressing for the first several minutes, until Jackson had to call time out early in the second with Dallas taking an 8-point lead. Jackson then spent a good minute talking to Odom, who’d struggled at both ends, and immediately out of the time out Odom twice attacked the rim, cutting the Mavs’ lead in half. J.J. Barea burned Shannon Brown for back-to-back hoops at the other end, but out of another Phil time out, Gasol aggressively scored on Dirk and Kobe hit two straight shots to get L.A. within one.

4:33 The Lakers were beginning to look like the Lakers again, finally, rolling off a 10-0 run inspired by Kobe, who scored six straight points and stripped Kidd on the other end. So much of the team’s confidence comes from Bryant, the constant driving force, who had moments earlier collected L.A. into a huddle with some demonstrative words (at least we’d assume … his gestures were certainly demonstrative).

0:00 Despite missing all seven three-point attempts, playing pretty tight, and watching Nowitzki hit a few more difficult jumpers (though that is Dirk’s think), the Lakers trailed by only two at the half (51-49). Key were Bryant (14 points) and Bynum (14 points, six boards), and some strong work on the offensive glass (eight to three) led to eight second-chance points.

7:40 After two bad plays on offense (blocked at the rim, then way off on a jumper), Gasol made two good ones (sprinting ahead of everyone in transition before receiving a pass for a dunk and hitting a turnaround) to get L.A. within two. His erratic play (4-of-10 FG’s) was pretty shocking to a home crowd that had seem him play with such consistency since he arrived in Los Angeles.

3:31 Not much changed as Dallas zinged the ball around the perimeter, Gasol tiring from trying to chase Dirk around, and eventually relented as the German hit first a triple and then a pull-up to put Dallas up 64-60. Only Kobe’s consecutive jumpers was keeping L.A. around, as even the body language battle was being won by the Mavericks.

0:00 And still not a switch in the final few minutes, L.A. really playing as if the three-peat were all on the line in this moment. They couldn’t find the rim, with several players missing wide-open shots, until Bynum finally hit a turnaround in the lane to stop a Mavs’ run. He also smartly committed a foul-to-give with 2.8 seconds left to quell the final Dallas possession, the deficit thus at six (68-62) after three.

9:46 Instead of finding a spark from the bench, L.A. allowed Dallas to reach its biggest lead at 10 after conceding the seventh Mavs 3 (Terry) and two Barea free throws. L.A.’s bench was just 4-for-15, the weight of the three-peat continuing to infiltrate the building.

6:05 A transition layup from Fisher finally got the crowd to its feet, some energy in the building, and L.A. within six at the 7:08 mark. But Barea, again, got into the paint with a floater. The crowd still up, Kobe had an open look at a corner three … but missed, the 14th gone awry for L.A. from distance, and Barea again broke L.A.’s D down before finding Haywood for a dunk and a 10-point lead. Building dead, again.

2:51 The Mavericks lead grew to as many as 15 after a Kidd three and Barea layup, before Bynum’s jumper and two Kobe free throws got L.A. back within 11 … but Nowitzki answered with an and-1 jumper in the lane, likely the final dagger into L.A.’s heart. When it was all mercifully over for the Lakers, Dallas walked out of Los Angeles with a 2-0 lead behind a 93-81 victory, the Purple and Gold heading to Texas with their title reign very much on the line.

Lakers in Game 2′s

With Wednesday’s Game 2 against Dallas set to tip at 7:30 p.m., we took a look at how the Lakers have done in previous second games of playoff series:

- The Lakers are 60-42 all-time in Game 2′s of best-of-seven series (57-38 in Los Angeles)
- L.A. has gone 10-3 in the past three playoff seasons in Game 2′s, earning 3-1 records in 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10, plus 1-0 this year (87-78 over New Orleans).
- All but one of those games came at home, as L.A. dropped Game 2 of the 2008 Finals at Boston.
- When splitting Games 1 and 2 in a best-of-seven series, the Lakers are 29-12 all-time (24-12 in Los Angeles, 5-0 in Minneapolis).
- L.A. split Games 1 and 2 three during their run to two consecutive NBA Finals victories, losing Game 1 to Houston in the 2009 Western Semi’s, and Game 2 to Denver (2009 Western Finals) and Boston (2010 Finals).
- When losing Game 1 in the past three playoff seasons, the Lakers are 2-0 in Game 2.
- The importance of Wednesday’s game can be shown historically through this stat: when losing Games 1 and 2 of a best-of-seven series (any round), the Lakers are 2-16 all-time. (2-15 Los Angeles, 0-1 Minneapolis).

Lakers – Mavs Game 1 Postgame Numbers

We picked out some of the more interesting stats from L.A.’s opening loss to Dallas in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

2 Turnovers in the final 21 seconds for the Lakers, who had committed nine total up to that point. Kobe Bryant’s pass was intercepted by Jason Terry with 20.9 seconds left in the fourth with L.A. up one, and Bryant tangled feet with Jason Kidd on the next possession before making contact with the ball in Pau Gasol’s hands before Kidd ended up with it, the clock reading 3.1 seconds. Furthermore, Gasol fouled Dirk Nowitzki on the inbounds pass with 19.5 remaining, giving Dallas the go-ahead free throws. Phil Jackson, as such, said L.A. “gave the game away.”

3 Assists away from a triple-double for Pau Gasol, who had 15 points, 11 boards and seven assists. Gasol was quiet in the fourth quarter, however, missing his only shot and getting three boards with an assist.

8 Points on 3-for-8 shooting for Andrew Bynum, who was outplayed by Mavs center Tyson Chandler (11 points, nine boards, three blocks) despite playing terrific against Dallas in the regular season.

9 Straight playoff series for the Lakers in which they won at least one road game, which they’ll now need to do at Dallas after relinquishing home court for the second straight series.

9 Three-pointers hit by the Mavs, including two in the fourth quarter, where as L.A. hit five total and zero in the final period. L.A. missed several assignments to allow open looks, which is not apart of the team’s scheme of contesting everything from three and not helping drivers into the paint.

11 Fourth quarter points for Dirk Nowitzki, who made 4-of-9 shots in the period and 11-of-22 overall with 5-of-5 from the foul line for 28 points to lead his squad. He added a game-high 14 rebounds.

19 Points picked up by the Lakers in a huge run around halftime, including a 14-2 burst in the final 2:21 of the first half and a 7-0 start to the second, creating some breathing room that would actually last only a few minutes before a 12-2 Mavs counter run.

22 Lakers points in the paint in the second quarter, which produced a 30-14 edge inside at the half. The Mavs, however, narrowed the margin to 10 at 46-36 by packing the paint in the second half.

36 Points for Kobe Bryant to lead all scorers. He hit 14-of-29 shots (48 percent), looking like his ankle/foot did not affect him, though he just missed the most important shot of the game, a three-pointer at the buzzer that would have won it for the Lakers. With Dallas single-covering Bryant for most of the game, he finished without an assist for just the second time all season.

56.8 Shooting percentage for Dallas in the second half, allowing a 52-41 edge on the scoreboard, including 25-16 in the fourth quarter. L.A. made only 7-of-22 shots (31.8 percent) in the final period.

Lakers 94, Mavs 96: Game 1 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Monday evening Round 2 contest against the Dallas Mavericks, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Mavericks: J. Kidd, D. Stevenson, S. Marion, D. Nowitzki, T. Chandler

9:29 With three full days between the end of Round 1 and this Game 1, Phil Jackson was a bit concerned his team would be out of rhythm offensively, particularly Kobe Bryant, who did not practice due to his sore left ankle/foot. Apparently Bryant wasn’t similarly concerned, as he drained 3-of-4 shots to start the game, including a three, to give L.A. a 9-4 lead. This was the focused group of Lakers we didn’t see in Game 1 of Round 1.

3:01 After this morning’s shootaround, I asked Phil Jackson how the Lakers have been so good defensively against the three-pointer, and related it to this Western Semifinal series: “It has to be consciousness,” he said. “(Dallas is) trying to keep you occupied on 1 side of the court to (free shooters).” In the regular season, LAL effectively ran the Mavs off 3′s in their two wins, and did not in their loss. As such, L.A.’s coaches were not happy to see Artest, Bryant and Fisher too far off Peja Stojakovic, Jason Terry and Jason Kidd, who hit one triple each in a stretch of just 1:17.

0:00 It wasn’t a poor first quarter for L.A. outside of the short stretch of missed defensive assignments, but the team did struggle to find its collective shooting rhythm, going 9-of-23 (39.1%) to find themselves trailing 25-23 after one. Kobe has 10, and Gasol six with three boards and three assists.

8:40 We saw the good and the bad from Shannon Brown off L.A.’s bench, as he converted two athletic hoops driving to the rim, but then made two poor passes and got lost on defense. The blown assignment resulted in the fourth Dallas three, giving the Mavs their biggest lead at 32-27.

2:00 L.A. was starting to do some better things on offense, like Gasol finding Bynum for his second dunk and the Spaniard’s fifth assist, but was still conceding open looks on the weak side of the floor. Jason Terry’s fifth make in six attempts got him 13 points in 14 minutes, and Dallas a three-point lead. But then came consecutive bank shots from Odom and Fisher (plus the foul) to make it 44-42 L.A.

0:00.7 From that point on, it was literally all Lakers, who went on a 10-2 run even before Terry committed a silly foul on Odom as the Sixth Man of the Year attempted a buzzer-beating heave. Three free throws resulted, and to compound that problem, Dirk was hit with a tech for throwing an elbow at Artest. That all equaled a 53-44 lead at the break.

10:37 So, that 14-2 run to close the third was soon up to 21-2 after a 7-0 burst out of the halftime tunnel, capped by Bryant’s three-pointer. Dallas had four TO’s throughout the entire first half, but three straight to open the second…

5:19 … But that run seemed to relax the Lakers in a bad way, the Mavs coming out of a time out with renewed energy to roll off a 12-2 run that cut L.A.’s lead to just three at 64-61. Corey Brewer, who played only five minutes against Portland in Round 1, had ignited the Mavs, even hitting a corner three to cap the spurt. All L.A.’s good work around halftime was essentially erased.

0:00 Back came Bryant and Gasol, the former scoring 15 of his 30 points in the period, and the latter reaching 15 points with eight boards and six assists by hitting four free throws in the final minute, putting L.A. up 78-71 going into the fourth quarter. It was a solid quarter for the Mavs, however, who outscored the Lakers 27-18 after the 7-0 spurt out of halftime.

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