The champs are dying. They began the second quarter of today's Game Four in Dallas by allowing the Mavs to hit for a 23 to 9 run, fueled by the three-point shooting of Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic and the dribble penetration of Jose Barea. Midway through the period the Mavs' lead had exploded to 18. With 31 seconds left before halftime, it hit 25.
The Mavs' offense is cutting the Lakers to ribbons. Their crisp ball movement has the purp and yellow utterly confused and incapable of properly marking Dallas shooters. Terry and Peja are bombing away at will: in the second period they combined for 28 points on 9 for 12 shooting. As a team the Mavs made 11 threes in the first half, tying an NBA playoff record.
Meanwhile, the Laker offense has collapsed into a ditch. Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum are trying to get some points inside, but the lack of an outside game once again has the Mavs shading everything into the paint. For the quarter the Lakers scored a disastrous 0.73 points per trip. Every shot they're taking is contested.
It's just a matter of time now. The season is coming to an end. The only real suspense in the second half surrounds whether the Lakers will continue to compete, or whether they'll punch out mentally and allow the final score to get truly ugly, a la Game Six in Boston, 2008.