NBA Playoffs 2011: What Went Wrong for the Lakers Against Mavericks in Game 1?

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NBA Playoffs 2011: What Went Wrong for the Lakers Against Mavericks in Game 1?
Harry How/Getty Images

Phil Jackson-coached teams have never lost a playoff series after winning Game 1.

For over a decade, Lakers fans have grown accustomed to seeing that stat displayed and knowing that history is on their side.

When the buzzer sounded after Game 1 on Monday night, the Phil Jackson stat was nowhere to be seen. The Mavericks beat the Lakers 96-94 and for the second series in a row the Lakers lost the opening game at home.

The Lakers played well for most of the game and benefited from mental lapses the Mavericks had in the closing seconds of the first half.

Jason Terry fouled Lamar Odom on an impossible three-point attempt and Dirk Nowitzki picked up a technical foul after he threw an elbow at Ron Artest. The plays gave the Lakers four quick points and LA held a nine-point margin at halftime.

When the third quarter began, the lead was quickly extended to 16 points after baskets from Artest, Gasol and Bryant. LA was rolling and everything seemed right in Laker Land.

Los Angeles would continue to push Dallas around and easily take Game 1, right?

Wrong.

Over the next two minutes the Lakers played spotty defense, took bad shots early in the shot clock and turned the ball over. The Mavs went on a 10-2 run and cut the lead to eight points.

In the fourth quarter Dallas refused to give up and fought their way back. The Mavericks executed down the stretch, the Lakers didn’t and when the final buzzer sounded it was Dallas that held a 1-0 lead and home-court advantage in the series.

How does a team that holds a 16-point third quarter lead end up losing at home?

The Lakers have now dug a hole that they must climb out of. Thankfully they are a solid road team because they are now forced to steal at least one game in Dallas.

To get back on track, LA will need more production from Bynum, Gasol and Odom.

Something is not right when those three combine for less field goal attempts than Kobe Bryant. Kobe had a great scoring night, but didn’t record a single assist the entire game. In addition to being a scorer, he must facilitate and get his teammates involved.

Gasol and Bynum cannot be stopped by the Mavs front line. After a monster series against the Hornets, Bynum had little impact in Game 1. The Lakers have a major size advantage against the Mavericks and will find success if they run the offense through their big men.

The most important Laker in this series might be Lamar Odom who is tasked with trying to slow down Nowitzki. For Odom to have a chance, he must be aggressive and make Dirk exert energy on the defensive end.

The Lakers may be the two-time defending champions, but what I saw in Game 1 was certainly not championship basketball.

Champions do not surrender a three-point lead in the last 60 seconds of a game. In the last minute, the Lakers turned the ball over twice and attempted only one shot. I thought this team knew how to close games?

Champions do not mess up their substitutions and force Gasol to guard Nowitzki while their better defender sits on the bench. Sure, Gasol committed a silly foul. But why was he guarding Dirk in the first place?

Despite the Game 1 loss at home, all is not lost. Many Lakers fans are still confident and claim that the Lakers play best when their backs are against the wall. I hope they are right.

Because their backs are against the wall and they find themselves, for the second series in a row, entering a must-win Game 2.

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