Mavericks Try to Take Improbable 3-0 Lead Against Champion Lakers in Dallas

2011 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Semifinals
#2 Los Angeles Lakers at #3 Dallas Mavericks (DAL leads series 2-0)
Best of seven series format, 2-2-1-1-1
American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas
Friday, May 6, 2011, 9:35 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: Mavericks -1
Current Line: Mavericks -2 1/2
Opening Total: 186 1/2
Current Total: 186
Money Line: Mavericks -140 / Lakers +120

Mavericks-Blazers series preview
Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki leads the Mavericks as they try to take a commanding 3-0 lead against the mighty Lakers. The Mavericks are 2 1/2 point home favorites.

With about 30 seconds left in game 2 of this series, Lakers small forward Ron Artest threw an elbow to Mavericks back-up point guard J.J. Barea’s face. The Lakers were down 14 at the  time and went on to lose 93-81. Artest was suspended for game 3 Friday night for the incident. It is a microcosm of the frustrations the Lakers are feeling being in an unfamiliar place. They are down 0-2 in a seven game series after Dallas beat them twice at home. Only 3 times in NBA history has a team lost the first two games at home and gone on to win a seven game series. Ironically, the Mavericks were the last team to do it in the 2005 playoffs against the Rockets. The Lakers were down 0-2 to Boston in the 2008 Finals, and ended up losing that series in 6 games. The last time the Lakers lost the first two games at home in a seven game series was in 1977 to the Blazers.

Where to begin with the Lakers? They lost game one after surrendering a 16 point second half lead 96-94. This was after struggling with the Hornets in round one, winning in 6 hard fought games. In game 2, the Lakers were only down 51-49. However, in the second half they only scored 32 points. For the game they were 2 for 20 from 3 point range. They didn’t hit a 3-pointer until   around 5 minutes left when the outcome was well-decided. They only had 5 more rebounds than the Mavericks, which is amazing when you consider the substantial size advantage the Lakers enjoy. Pau Gasol continues to struggle and looks tired and worn out. He is being timid on the court instead of the aggressive scorer that helped the Lakers win the last 2 titles. He had 13 points and 10 rebounds on 5 for 12 shooting. He is averaging 13.6 points a game during the playoffs along with 7.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists a game. Compare that to the 18.8 points and 10.2 rebounds he averaged during the regular season. He actually received boos from the Laker crowd in the second half of game 2. Kobe Bryant scored 23 points, on 9 for 20 shooting, along with 3 assists and 5 steals. Surprisingly, he had no rebounds. Center Andrew Bynum had a great game in game 2 with 18 points and 13 rebounds. After the game he said all 13 players on the Lakers have “deeply rooted trust issues.” Artest had 11 points and 6 rebounds before being tossed. No other Laker scored more than 6 points. In fact the Laker bench was outscored 30-12 in game 2. The Lakers shot 41% from the field, including all the missed 3-pointers. They also missed 9 free throws. LA had 44 rebounds, 18 assists, and 10 turnovers. Besides Artest being suspended, Lamar Odom is probable with an arm injury.

Though the Mavericks are in a good position, they aren’t popping the champagne yet. Dallas has chocked away some series in the past after having big leads. They have won 4 straight playoff games since blowing an 18 point fourth quarter lead against Portland in game 4 of the first round. They had lost 18 of their last 20 playoff road games after game 4 in Portland. However they have won 3 straight on the road since then. Dallas used to be known for being a good offensive team but soft on defense. However, they won both games in LA based on their defense. They are allowing a playoff low 88 points a game in 8 playoff games. It is no surprise that forward Dirk Nowitzki is leading the Mavericks in scoring as the Lakers have no answer for him. Of course few if any can guard a 7 footer with a 30 foot shooting range. Nowitzki is averaging over 27 points a game in the playoffs. In game 2 he had 24 points and 7 rebounds on 9 for 16 shooting. Small forward Shawn Marion added 14 points and 9 rebounds. Six foot back-up point guard Jose Juan Barea slashed through the Lakers defense for 12 points off the bench. The speedy Barea negated the Lakers size, and received the elbow to the face that caused Artest to be suspended for game 3. Starting point guard Jason Kidd added 10 points and 6 assists. Jason Terry struggled in game 2 scoring only 9 points on 3 for 12 shooting from the field. Center Tyson Chandler had 6 points and 7 rebounds. Dallas didn’t shoot very well either in game 2, shooting only 42% from the field but were 8 for 25 from 3 point range. They also converted 17 of 21 free throws.  They had 39 rebounds, 20 assists, and 11 turnovers.   Dallas forward Caron Butler   is out indefinitely with a knee injury and hasn’t played since January.

Dallas is 7-5 ATS in the last 12 against LA, while the Lakers are 7-5 straight up in those games. The over is 7-5 in those games.

Are the Lakers finished?  That is a question that the media has been asking since the end of Wednesday night’s game 2. Well, the Lakers aren’t in the best spot but they are the two time defending champs. Like a vampire, they aren’t dead until you put that stake through their heart. Having said that, the Lakers have had an unfortunate habit of taking some games off against inferior opponents in the playoffs recently. Those extra, unnecessary  games appear to be taking their toll on the aging Lakers who are basically a 6 man team right now. Matt Barnes will have to step up big to replace Artest in this game.  The Lakers will start Odom, Gasol, Bynum, Bryant, and Fisher. That is a line-up that Dallas can exploit with their quickness. I still think the Lakers will show the heart of a champion and win game 3 to get back in the series. They had better, because otherwise the dreams of a threepeat are all but dead and buried.

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