The NBA playoffs from 2008, 2009 and 2010 included the Lakers in every single round. For three straight years, all of the Western Conference playoff contenders bowed down to the Lakers, much like most of the NBA did. However, the 2011 postseason stands to tell a very different story as Los Angeles faces its earliest elimination since 2007. Their last hope to change that came in Dallas on Friday night, yet once again, these Lakers had none of their trademark championship mettle at the end.
The Dallas Mavericks rode all the momentum back home, after having won twice in Los Angeles. However, if the Lakers could have stolen Game 3 in Dallas, it would have put the two-time defending champions back in the series, and put some new doubt into the Mavericks. For much of the second half on Friday night, it appeared that would happen.
Los Angeles kept Dallas at bay for much of the second half, as Andrew Bynum actually had more points than Kobe Bryant. But the Mavericks stayed within range, although the Lakers kept the edge, and led by as many as seven in the fourth quarter. However, just as in Game 1, Dallas made a late rally in the final minutes.
Dirk Nowitzki’s 32 points, and 11 key fourth quarter points from Peja Stojakovic, fueled the Mavericks’ latest comeback. Although Los Angeles has flipped the switch time and again in the last three postseasons when they had to, it has had no answers for Dallas in the fourth quarter so far. As a result, the Mavericks took control once again en route to a backbreaking 98-92 win.
When the Western Conference playoff schedule was formed, no one dreamed that it would end with Dallas holding home court for the conference finals. But with one more win, the Mavericks will not only have home court in the next round, the team will have gotten there after sweeping the champions.
With the Spurs having already been eliminated, the Lakers’ near-elimination is continuing the changing of the guard out West. Of course, the Mavericks aren’t exactly a new contender, like the Thunder and the Grizzlies since Dallas was in the finals in 2006. In fact, it is one of the few Western franchises other than San Antonio and Los Angeles to win the Western Conference since 1999.
But for the first time since 2006, the Mavericks resemble a team that can finally get over the hump, at least in this series. As for the Lakers, the three-time defending Western champions are being manhandled in a way that didn’t seem possible in their current dynasty- although these are hardly their glory days.
Although things seem to be right on schedule for a new order out West, the Lakers haven’t left the playoffs yet. The Mavericks still need one more win, and will seek it on Sunday afternoon.
NBA.com- “2011 Playoffs Schedule”
Yahoo Sports- “Kobe not counting out Lakers despite 3-0 deficit”