For the Los Angeles Lakers, the season is over. The Dallas Mavericks swept them out of the Playoffs with a Game 4 win on Sunday that was the most embarrassing defeat the Lakers have suffered since Game 6 of the 2008 Finals against the Celtics. In this game and throughout the series, they didn't look anything like the team that has won the last two NBA Championships. The Mavericks thoroughly outplayed them on both ends of the floor, and for the last three quarters or so, it looks like they pretty much gave up.
According to our Lakers blog Silver Screen and Roll, this pattern of coming completely off the hinges when a series appears to be out of reach is something the Lakers are all too familiar with.
But it didn't have to end like this: with a second-round sweep capped off by a 36-point hammering in the final game coached by Phil Jackson. We were worried about this possibility from the moment the Lakers lost Game Two. We've talked about how when the Lakers fall apart in the playoffs, they fall apart with a vengeance. Just as they did in Game Six in Boston three years ago, today they got down early, decided they just didn't have the answers and let their opponents name the score.
The Lakers looked like a team closer to the lottery than a third NBA Championship on Sunday. Between the level of play, and their actions toward the end of the game (Odom and Bynum ejections) the Lakers just didn't look like Champions on Sunday. Everyone has a bad day, but on Sunday everyone on the team had a bad day during the most important game of the season.
As hard is it may be, we're also going to head over to our Mavericks blog Mavs Money Ball for reaction from the winning side. For them, this win means more than just one of 16 it will take to win the NBA Championship.
This win means more to the Dallas Mavericks than just advancing to the Western Conference Finals. They swept the two-time defending champions, in the final season of the greatest coach ever to lead a team in the NBA. They did it with grit and determination and clamp-down defense, all while being called soft by the entire sports community. They may have eight more games to win if they want to get that ring, but for now we can all sit back and revel in the glory of a massive accomplishment. I am SO proud of my Dallas Mavericks today.
And that pride is the biggest difference this morning between Lakers fans and Mavericks fans. Nobody is blaming the Lakers for failing to win three straight Champioships. That is an incredibly difficult task, and with so many good teams in the NBA, it would have been hard to expect that even if the team played at it's best. But a team should be able to perform with pride and humility whether winning or losing. If they had lost in a hard-fought series that would be one thing. But they just flat out gave up. Mavericks fans are proud of their team and their effort, Lakers fans more ashamed.
So where do they go from here? The Lakers didn't look like they had the athleticism to compete this year, and they will only be older next year. Some changes will have to be made. Silver Screen and Roll is curious about what those might be.
Needless to say, this'll be quite the interesting offseason here in Lakerland. There are questions that need answering up and down the roster. What the hell happened to Pau Gasol? How can this team get younger and more athletic? Why can't the Lakers ever put together a decent bench? And if Derek Fisher isn't going to come through with postseason magic, what exactly is he good for?
We have no idea what those changes will be, but in an offseason without a premier free agent like LeBron to steal the attention away, that could be the biggest storyline of the Summer (save for the labor negotiations). No matter who they bring in, the Lakers need more than anything to get back to playing the type of basketball that has won them championships, and that they can be proud of at the end of the day.