Lakers' 96-94 Game 1 loss to Dallas Mavericks points to inconsistent execution
"I'm not so sure Dallas didn't outplay us," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said, "but the players felt like they gave it away."
They gave it away with Kobe Bryant clanging a last-chance three-pointer on the final possession off the rim, finalizing a finishing stretch that included a poor shot, a turnover and a shot getting blocked.
They gave it away when Pau Gasol's dump pass to Bryant resulted in a turnover after he was bumped by Jason Kidd chasing Bryant at his side, a play that could've been avoided had Gasol found an open Derek Fisher in the corner.
And they gave it away with Gasol's ridiculous foul on Dirk Nowitzki during an inbounds pass with 19.5 seconds left and the Lakers leading by one, something that could've been avoided had Lamar Odom been guarding him.
This script might read similar to their Game 1 loss to New Orleans, an outcome that eventually resulted in the Lakers waking up and winning four of the next five games. But this game's different. The Mavericks were supposed to collapse after Jason Terry fouled Lamar Odom at half court with 0.7 seconds left in the second quarter, when Dirk Nowitzki elbowed Ron Artest and drew a technical foul and the Lakers stormed out to a 60-44 lead with 10:39 remaining in the third quarter. Instead of ratcheting up the intensity, the Lakers simply coasted.
"I'm very concerned," Bryant said. "They can beat us."
Dallas beat the Lakers in a lot of ways. Gasol and Odom giving Nowitzki just enough space that they didn't disrupt his mid-range shooting much, the 7-foot power forward scoring 28 points on 11-of-22 shooting. The Mavericks went on a 20-6 run in the middle of the third quarter to get to within 66-64 of the Lakers with 4:04 left in the period, never allowing the Lakers more than an eight-point lead. And Dallas' off-season acquisitions of Brendan Haywood and Tyson Chandler proved to be the size it needed into fronting and disrupting Andrew Bynum, who scored only eight points on three-of-eight shooting.
Meanwhile, the Lakers spent three days preparing for the Mavericks, but had very little to show for it. The Lakers never ran a balanced offense with Bynum's ineffectiveness contributing to the problems and pointing to his teammates only allowing him to have eight field-goal attempts. After proving surprisingly effective in the first-round series against New Orleans, Artest went one of eight from the field, lacked the focus he had in finding quality shots and the energy he had in hustle plays (three rebounds). Bryant's 36 points came on a 14-of-29 shooting clip, a dicey formula for a team wanting to ride his hot streak while making sure the offense remains balanced. But his hot streak eventually ended and the offensive lapses remained. And then there was the Lakers' reserves, which sparked Bryant's ire during his postgame news conference. With exception to Odom's 15 points on five-of-10 shooting, the rest of the bench appeared equally ineffective in scoring only 10 more points as it was in feeding the Lakers' bigs inside.
"We should've pounded the ball inside," Bryant said. "Our second unit has to do a better job in that regard. I felt like we stayed on the perimeter too much. ... It had nothing to do with me. I had games where I shot the ball 30 times and Pau had big offensive games those games. I'm going to do what I do. The second unit and crew has to get a conscious effort to get the ball into Pau and the ball into Andrew. I had games where I shot the ball 10 times and Pau and Andrew didn't contribute that much. I had games where I shot the ball 30 times and they had big games. It has nothing to do with my shots."
But the loss has to do with a series of small problems that the Lakers have discovered is a dicey formula to follow against a team that suddenly matches up well with them both on paper and on the court.
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Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant launches the final shot of Game 1 as Jason Kidd arrives late to challenge the shot. Bryant missed and the Mavericks took a 96-94 victory. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / May 2, 2011