The place is Dallas, the crowd is raucous and one sees a sea of blue shirts with the message “The Time is Now.” It is near desperate time for Lakers, as they have to win tonight or go home. With Ron Artest out due to suspension resulting from late foul play in game 2, Lamar Odom starts at small forward, a role he apparently hadn’t played since being a Los Angeles Clipper in 2004. Body language looks good; Lakers seem to have come to play. But with 5 minutes to go in the quarter, Kobe Bryant fouls Dirk Nowitzki who gets an and one opportunity, while Kobe commits his second personal and heads to the bench. In comes Shannon Brown. With Kobe out, Dirk Nowitzki goes berserk and sank in two consecutive three-pointers to put the Mavericks ahead by three points with a little over four-minutes to play. Time out Lakers! Phil Jackson is furious; he is shown dishing out some harsh words to Gasol and Bynum.
Late in the quarter, Bynum gets his second foul and is out to the bench. In comes Gasol, and right away he misses under the basket and Tyson Chandler gets a bucket and a foul on the other end. The score is now 25-24 Dallas. With 39.9 seconds to go, Pau Gasol manages a three-point play that brings the Lakers within two points; the quarter ends with Mavericks 29 and Lakers 27.
Kobe Bryant is back with his two fouls, while Andrew Bynum is still out with his. Mavericks enjoy a 6-point lead at this time thanks to the plays of Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki. Bingo! Shannon Brown knocks down a three; he gets three-point happy and tries another but misses badly. It is now 6:16 to go in the half, and Bynum finally comes back in. Highlight of this quarter; Andrew Bynum steals the ball from Nowitzki and goes coast to coast for a slam-dunk! To end the half, Kobe Bryant is called for traveling with 4.2 seconds to go. On the other end, Steve Blake intercepts a pass for Jason Terry and an outlet pass to Shannon Brown leads to a foul by the Mavs; Brown makes one of two free throws to end the half. The score: Lakers 51, Mavericks 47. Things are looking up for the Lakers!
Kobe is five for five thus far in the game. Oh no! Bynum gets his third foul with nearly ten minutes to play in the third. Fisher nails a three a short time later and the Lakers have a 58-51 lead with 8:16 to play. Time out Dallas! Before you know it, Jason Kidd nails a three, and then another by Nowitzki and the lead is down to one. A short time later, Pau Gasol makes another unimpressive move and a turn over lead to a breakaway dunk by Terry. Phil Jackson is disgusted to say the least. What happened to Pau, the all star? Only time will tell. The quarter ends with Shannon Brown tipping in a miss by Kobe Bryant to give the Lakers a 72-66 lead going into the final quarter.
Kobe is on the bench. Bynum makes a 3-point play; shortly Shannon Brown comes back with another deuce and the Lakers have their biggest lead at 8 points with 9:30 to go. Time out Dallas! An offensive foul by Nowitzki. Peja Stojakovic is killing the Lakers right now with his quick releases of threes! Gasol shows some life with a jumper, but a quick three by Nowitzki pales his effort. Stojakovic continues his murderous kill with another three. Kobe makes a bad decision by taking a difficult shot, which he misses, whereas Lamar Odom was wide open in the corner. This leads to a Dallas run and a foul by Lakers on the other end with less than three minutes to play. The lead is shrunk to one point with Dallas in position to take the lead with two free throws coming to Nowitzki. He makes both shots and Dallas have a one-point lead. The rest is all blurry, as Lakers let an 8-point lead evaporate and they find themselves down by two with 18.7 seconds to go, and Jason Terry heading to the free throw line. Terry makes the shot, and it is 4-point game now. I feel sick — of the Lakers lack of ability to hold a lead! An inbound by Odom is left out of bound, a turnover by Lakers, which forces a foul. Terry makes it a 6-point game with 16.6 seconds to go. The Lakers are now in a point of no return. Final score: Dallas 98, Lakers 92. The Mavericks just keep coming back from behind and closing the game strongly.
I am upset that Lakers didn’t really come with an A-game, just more of the same. Kobe, the supposedly best closer in the league, was in no way himself. He made a critical play that led to easy Dallas points with 2:40 to go and from then on it had been all Dallas. Unbelievable! Just unbelievable! Credit to Dallas for playing a superb game.