Lakers experience another fourth-quarter collapse in 98-92 Game 3 loss to Dallas Mavericks
Forget about Phil Jackson's increased animation and tightened rotation. Forget about Andrew Bynum showcasing his inside dominance. And forget how impressive the Triple Towers lineup looked with Lamar Odom taking Ron Artest's spot in the starting lineup.
I'll break down all of these issues later, but all that matters is that the Lakers lost, 98-92, in Game 3 on Friday against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Arena because of a fourth-quarter implosion. The Lakers have another game on Sunday because this is a best-of-seven series, but there's no way they become the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-0 deficit. I don't care that the Lakers have the talent and experience to pull off the feat, or that the Mavericks imploded in the 2006 NBA Finals after having a 2-0 series lead over Miami. There's no way the Lakers win this series. So the lasting images of the Lakers' dynasty points to their fourth-quarter unraveling. Below the jump, I explain how it all went down in the final 6:48 of the game.
6:41 - 6:35: Bynum set a screen on Dallas guard Jason Terry for Steve Blake in the far corner, giving him space to penetrate and throw a swing pass at the top of the key to Shannon Brown. Despite there being 14 seconds on the shot clock and Gasol establishing solid position in the post, Brown launches a three-pointer that hits the back iron.
After Gasol didn't try one bit to box out Dirk Nowitzki for the board, Jason Kidd and Nowitzki ran a pick-and-roll play. First Bynum and Gasol switched on Nowitzki so that Bynum could handle him at the free-throw line and Gasol would mark the lane and defend center Tyson Chandler. After Nowitzki set a pick on Kobe Bryant, he stayed with Kidd while Bynum stayed with Nowitzki.
Once he had the ball at the top of the key, Bynum gave him very little space to operate. After dribbling left, Bryant went out to double team, prompting Nowitzki to throw a swing pass to Kidd. Brown immediately shifted over to guard Kidd, but that opened up room for Peja Stojakovic. Since Gasol didn't rotate to guard him in time, Stojakovic made an open three-pointer that cut the Lakers' lead to 81-78.
5:11 - 4:54: It appeared that Gasol regained some confidence, showing tremendous footwork and poise in nailing a turnaround jumper over Nowitzki that gave the Lakers a 85-78 edge with 5:07 remaining. But he continued to show his poor focus on defense on the next possession. Nowitzki set a pick on Bryant, but Gasol wasn't nearby to cover Nowitzki, though Bynum was ready to shut off Kidd's lane to the basket. Bynum clearly had his eyes set on Chandler, but Gasol picked him up for some reason, leaving Nowitzki wide open for a three-pointer. His shot cut the Lakers' lead to 85-81.
4:22 - 3:48: Credit Gasol's eagerness in drawing a big-time charge on Nowitzki. But just like on the previous sequence, Gasol messes up on the next possession. Bryant for some reason ignores Bynum being open on the nearside and instead fires a pass to Fisher on the perimeter. He immediately feeds Gasol, who posted up against Nowitzki, lost his dribble, picked up the ball and forced a high-arching 15-footer that hit back iron.
After Chandler boxed out Bynum and grabbed the rebound, Kidd runs the offense on the other side of the floor. He immediately feeds Nowitzki, but Gasol shuts him down as he crosses the lane, prompting Nowitzki to fire a near-side pass to Stojakovic. Odom was too consumed with stopping Chandler, understandable since Bynum wasn't in his rotation. But Odom didn't respond quickly enough to closing out on Stojakovic, resulting in him nailing a three-pointer that closed the gap to 87-84.
3:25 - 2:57: These next two plays show Bryant making a few mistakes. In triple-threat position at the top of the key, Bryant drives left past Kidd, pulls up for a jumper at the free-throw line and then delivers a jump pass to Gasol, who was focusing on boxing out so the ball bounced off his chest. This was equal parts Bryant passing way too late and Gasol not angling himself so that he could receive a pass just in case Bryant changed his mind. Kidd picked up the loose ball and then drew a reach-in foul from Bryant. After Kidd's two free throws cut the Lakers' lead to 87-86, the Lakers took way too much time setting up their offense on the next possession.
With 13 seconds left on the shot clock, Bryant directed the offense from up top and found Odom open on the wing. Bynum established post position, but Odom shied away feeding Bynum the ball with Chandler fronting Bynum. So Odom passed the ball out to Bryant at the top of the key. With five seconds left on the shot clock, Bryant drove right before Stojakovic and Kidd doubled him. That left Odom wide open on the far side, but Bryant dribbled twice and settled for a 23-foot fallaway jumper that nipped the front of the rim.
2:40 - 2:00: After Nowitzki hit two free throws, Odom fed Bynum on the near side at the other end. Once Odom set a screen at the top of the key on Terry, Fisher cut to the near side and picked up Bynum's dump pass. He dribbled into the lane and converted on the left-handed leaner, giving the Lakers an 89-88 lead with 2:27 remaining. But that play was quickly short-lived.
On the next possession, Nowitzki ran a pick on Bryant, but Gasol continued to mark him. Still Nowtizki set a pick on Bryant's left, allowing Kidd some space to drive. Bryant ran through the pick, however, and shut off Kidd's penetration. Nowitzki received a pass from Kidd at the free-throw line and immediately attacked the lane before getting double-teamed by Bryant. That left Kidd open on the far-side perimeter, prompting Fisher to fill in the gap and close off Kidd's space. Bynum failed to rotate, however, leaving Terry wide open on the far side for a three-pointer. That shot gave the Mavericks a 91-89 lead.
1:47 - 1:10: Odom immediately quieted the cheers at American Airlines Arena by going one-on-one with Stojakovic, posting him up in the lane and then spinning around for a six-foot jumper that tied the score. But Dallas immediately answered. Gasol guarded Nowitzki, who had the ball at the top of the key, but he immediately drove left before Bynum shut off his drive. Still, that didn't stop Nowitzki from nailing a left-handed shot to give the Mavericks a 93-91 advantage.
1:10 - :18.2 - Odom tries to take Stojkaovic off the dribble again, but his drive into the lane for a left-handed runner bounced off the backboard and rim. Nowitzki immediately tipped the ball to Stojkavoic, setting up Fisher's worst play of the game. Once Nowitzki had the ball below the top of the key, he tried a series of jab fakes to throw Gasol off balance before dribbling inside. Bryant went for the steal, requiring Nowitzki to pick up his dribble and throw a quick pass to Kidd.
Bryant immediately rotated over, as did Odom once Stojkavoic received the ball in the near corner. That's why his off-balance jumper hit the back rim, but Terry saved the ball from going out of bounds. With a new shot clock, Kidd fed Nowitzki on the near post with Odom guarding him. Meanwhile, Bynum and Fisher shut off Chandler's baseline penetration before Bynum met Nowitzki with a double team, prompting him to fire a pass to Stojakovic on the far side. As soon as Stojakovic passed to Terry in the corner, Fisher immediately marked him. But Fisher overextended himself and bumped Terry with his waist, granting him two free throws that Terry converted for a 95-91 Mavericks lead.
:18.2 - 16.6 - Fisher makes another blunder on the inbounds pass. After Bryant ran off Bynum's high screen on Kidd, he continued to be marked. Meanwhile, Gasol flashed to the lane, but Nowitzki gave him little room to post up. Fisher threw a lob out of Odom's reach, prompting him to extend himself but he couldn't control the pass. Fisher immediately fouled Terry on the inbounds pass, and he hit two free throws to give Dallas a 97-91 lead.
:15.3 - :07 - Gasol threw an inbounds pass to Bryant at the top of the key and he immediately hoisted a three-pointer. His shot hit off the back rim, but Gasol grabbed the rebound. After two missed put-backs, Gasol drew the foul, made the first free throw and then missed the second on purpose. But Kidd grabbed the rebound over Gasol and secured the win, hitting one of two foul shots.
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Top photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant wipes his face as he prepares for the final minutes of Game 3 on Friday night in Dallas. Bryant finished with 17 points in the 98-92 loss to the Mavericks. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / May 6, 2011
Second photo: Lakers point guard Derek Fisher is fouled on a driving layup by Mavericks guard DeShawn Stevenson in the first half of Game 3 on Friday night in Dallas. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / May 6, 2011
Third photo: Lakers forward Lamar Odom fumbles the ball out of bounds on an inbounds play in the final minute of the fourth quarter of Game 3 on Friday night in Dallas. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / May 6, 2011
Bottom photo: Mavericks guard Jason Terry grabs irritated forward Dirk Nowitzki after he was fouled during Game 3 on Friday night in Dallas. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / May 6, 2011