With a hard fought come back to take Game one in Los Angeles, the Dallas Mavericks became playoff-relevant again. After the heartache of choking away the 2006 NBA Finals, the Mavericks have struggled to bounce back, and now may be their time. With the Lakers seemingly in control at half time of Game one, the Mavericks looked to be sliding right back into that ever-familiar role of “underachiever” until something amazing happened… The Mavericks decided to fight. Dallas ground Los Angeles to a screaming halt through a long, calculated and constant effort in all areas of the game. The old Mavericks would have been blown out by 30, still unaware how they lost when the final siren sounded. Whereas this Mavericks outfit looked focused, confident and capable. Big trouble for the Lakers.
Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant were the only two players who displayed any sense of urgency for Los Angeles it seemed. Lamar Odom put up a good fight but with his minutes being of the bench variety, it seemed he was always willing the second unit into action and his actions alone were simply not enough. The most bemusing issue of all though, which has always been a Laker error, is that LA didn’t capitalise on Andrew Bynum’s precence in the lane. On many occasions Bynum, (although travelling often with no call) was overpowering Chandler and Haywood inside and getting to the line. Yet in the second half, the Lakers shied away from him on offense.
Drink this in because it still baffles me but Andrew Bynum only attempted eight shots in Game one. I would confidently wager $100 on that number close to doubling in Game two. Meanwhile Kobe, through no lack of confidence shot 14-29 and while that’s not a terrible percentage, it was also a result of only 35 minutes played. Tack on another eight minutes to that box score and it would have been even more predictable who was getting the ball in the fourth quarter.
We always assume that a bad Laker game is simply “all part of the plan” when it comes to teams coached by Phil Jackson. This team however has not once achieved what I would call “gelling” throughout the regular season and if I’m a die-hard Laker fan, I would be seriously worried. If Dallas can bring the same intensity without the stupid mistakes in Game two, this thing is going to Dallas and the series will not be tied.
I’ve never been a fan of the Dallas Mavericks, in fact I generally dislike all the Texas teams along with the Utah Jazz. In recent years however I’ve looked at the game a different way and have come to respect all the teams for their various levels of skills and the systems they run. Now I’m far from jumping on the Dallas Championship bandwagon here but the signs from Game one were equally good for Dallas as they were bad for Los Angeles and in this case I think that is a prominent fact.
You have to remember that Dallas are finally “under the radar” and seemingly don’t wear any of the 2006 choking tag pressure anymore. In fact a lot of people picked Portland to win that first round series (including me but hey, I picked Orlando in four games!) and when Dallas smacked the Blazers in those last two games no one appeared to be raving about them. Now up against the Lakers, the Mavs would be socially excused for losing in five or six games. Can anyone else see the overwhelming advantage for Dallas here? They are finally after five years, playing Playoff basketball with almost no pressure whatsoever. They are a 57-win team who is the consensus underdog. The NBA… Where amazing happens.
So it boils down to a massive Game two today in Los Angeles. Arguably the biggest game in both team’s recent history. 2-0? Or 1-1? Either way both LA and Dallas have a lot of work to do before either team reaches the Western Conference Finals.
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