I keep wondering how much more of Dirk Nowitzki running back to defense with three fingers in the air will we see in this series, this playoff. I’m saying that because it seems that the 2010-2011 version of the Lakers, probably Phil Jackson’s final campaign, is heading towards an early summer break.
The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t been swept since 1999 against the San Antonio Spurs. They’ve won seven different playoff series since by sweeps. It looks like that streak is reaching its end. The Lakers did a lot of things right for three quarters despite not having Ron Artest in the lineup with Lamar Odom filling in. It wasn’t enough. The Dallas Mavericks outscored the Lakers 32-20 in the final quarter, lead by Peja Stojakovic, Jason Terry and one amazing and so so clutch Dirk Nowitzki.
Andrew Bynum started hot, backing up his words before the game about trust issues between the Lakers players. He was crushing Tyson Chandler or anyone guarding him. Pau Gasol, maybe the player the Lakers needed the most to show up, didn’t. He had quite a lot to hear from Phil Jackson during a third quarter timeout. I’m pretty sure it had something to do with toughness and all that. Gasol seemed to be affected for one play only. He just wasn’t up to it tonight, or for the entire series. Guarding Dirk Nowiztki is never easy, and it seems even harder, nearly impossible in this series.
And what else can we say about Nowitzki? 32 points, 9 rebounds, 12-19 from the field, 4-5 from three point. The three pointers were huge in this game – Dallas finished with 12-29. The Lakers? 3-13, 23.1%.
Nowitzki’s leadership, versatility on offense and ability in the clutch, mostly in the final 5 minutes, coming back from a 7 point deficit. Yes, even better than Bryant (4 points in the fourth) when it mattered the most. He had a lot of help from Jason Terry (23 points) and Peja Stojakovic – the 33 year old Serb finished with 15 points, 11 in the fourth quarter.
The Lakers played with their three bigs, something that has hardly happened all season. Eventually, they couldn’t keep running after Kidd and Terry on the perimeter. Kobe Bryant later said that the Lakers helped by some of the dumbest defensive mistakes he has ever seen. He also said that he thinks they can win this series. He may be crazy or something, but they can still win this series. Kobe finished with 17 points, but the Lakers didn’t have enough help. Not from Gasol, and from the Lakers bench, outscored 42-15.
The difference was in the execution, as it has been all series, down the stretch. The Lakers dropped a big lead in game 1, and the Lakers couldn’t close the game in Game 3. Dallas got the stops, the Lakers didn’t. And they didn’t have Dirk Nowitzki, who’s undergoing some sort of redemption in this series and playoffs.
Above all were Nowitzki and Jason Kidd. Kidd gave some of the best defense I’ve seen from him in a very long time, much too good for Kobe Bryant to deal with in the final quarter. Dirk Nowitzki was just too good, like he has been all series and all game round, for Pau Gasol and anyone from the Lakers trying to stop him.