Their heads remained down because the team's 93-81 Game 2 loss Wednesday to the Dallas Mavericks put them in a dicey reality. Only three times in NBA history has a team won a seven-game series after losing the first two home games and only 14 times out of 238 seven-game series in NBA history has a team overcome a 2-0 deficit, something Lakers Coach Phil Jackson conceded is a "challenge." Their teeth remained clenched because the Lakers' frustration pointed to numerous long-rooted problems, such as a lacking inside game, Kobe Bryant's high volume of shots, Ron Artest's inconsistency, the bench's horrific play, the team's horrible defense and poor free-throw shooting, providing them a big list to correct. And their ears perked because the boos from the 18,997 fans at Staples Center remained loud throughout the game.
The Lakers' public unraveling took place in what could be their last game of the season at Staples Center and certainly their last playoff series of the season. There's plenty of lasting images to sum up the Lakers' demise. Artest clotheslined Dallas guard Jose Barea with 25 seconds remaining in the game, an act condemned by Jackson, an act that will likely draw a suspension for Game 3 on Friday and an act that looked uglier than both Artest's shot selection (four of 10) and his pushing on Dirk Nowitzki. Lakers forward Pau Gasol looked equally horrified, upset and emotional after Nowitzki threw the dagger with three-point play on a fadeaway jumper and foul that put the Mavericks up 85-73 with 2:51 left, a sequence so ugly that most of the Lakers fans at Staples Center then headed for the exits. And then in the locker room, Lakers center Andrew Bynum argued that the team has "trust issues," a reason why the Lakers won't be able to overcome their current adversity.
"It's obvious we have trust issues," Bynum said after becoming the only Laker to shoot above 50% with 18 points on eight-of-11 shooting and arguing the problem has been season-wide. "We have to come out and discuss them or things won't change."