NBA Playoffs 2011: Los Angeles Lakers in Panic Mode?

Ethan NorofCorrespondent IMay 6, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 20:  Kobe Bryant #24 and Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers walk from the sideline while taking on the New Orleans Hornets in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 20, 2011 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers aren't used to this. 

After the All-Star break, this team looked unbeatable. Kobe was facilitating for his teammates, Pau Gasol was being aggressive with his game and Andrew Bynum was eating up the opposition in the low post.

This big three looked more impressive than any other in the league. More importantly, they looked like a lock to return to the NBA Finals for the fourth straight season.

Now, the same squad looks like the fourth best team of the four that still remain in contention from the conference. Kevin Durant is leading the Thunder, Zach Randolph is at the forefront of the Grizzlies' charge and Dirk Nowitzki has his Mavericks thinking about a title.

So, what's so surprising about the struggles in La-La land? Not a whole lot.

The team battled with Dallas throughout the regular season for seeding at the top of the standings, and narrowly edged them out for the second spot in the standings. 

Yes, the Lakers are struggling, and there's little doubt that this team can certainly play better, but at what point will someone give the Mavs the credit that they deserve? This team came into Los Angeles with a chip on its shoulder and something to prove, and head back to their home court with a commanding lead in the series.

It's nothing new for Dirk or his team, who seem to be consistently overlooked almost every season despite their constant presence in the postseason. Nowitzki is a bona fide superstar, and it's about time he was recognized as such.

Kobe said after Game 1 that he was worried about this matchup because the Mavericks match up with the Lakers so well. And he appears to be correct.

The Lakers are scrambling for answers and look to be coming up empty when it matters most.

Anyone who isn't concerned about Los Angeles' playoff life should re-examine the picture.

It's getting increasingly murkier with each passing day.