The second round of the NBA Playoffs has begun with the most unlikely of scenarios possible. Every single lower seed in the second round, with the exception of Boston, has managed to win game 1 on the road, leading many to speculate that this could be the year of the underdog. Last night, it was the Dallas Mavericks turn to play spoiler.
Despite a magnificent performance from Kobe Bryant, the Lakers were unable to hold off a late charge from Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks as the Mavericks narrowly edged out a 96-94 victory.
Nowitzki was sensational. It didn’t seem to matter which defender the Lakers threw at Nowitzki, he found a way to score. Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol were unable to contain Nowitzki who had his full offensive repertoire on display.
The difference in this game was the ability of the Mavericks to defend. In years past defence has always been the Achilles heel of the Mavs. But this year, with the addition of Tyson Chandler anchoring the middle, the Mavericks have been a solid defensive team, ranking in the top ten all season. Their strong defence kept them in a game the looked to be getting out of hand in the second half.
Refusing to send the double team, the Mavs seemed content to allow Bryant to get his and keep the rest of the Lakers in check. It was thought that the Lakers would have a decisive advantage in the paint but that didn’t seem to be the case. Tyson Chandler was able to guard Gasol effectively and Haywood was able to minimize Andrew Bynum, who doesn’t look as dominant since injuring his knee at the end of the regular season.
Kobe Bryant finished with 36 amazing points but missed a potential game-winning three point field goal at the buzzer, but the loss can’t be put on his shoulders. Although, 29 field goal attempts without a single assist is a troubling stat line for any player. It’s hard to argue that Kobe is making his teammates around him better when he doesn’t have a dime to his name. On the other hand, Kobe was doing what Kobe does, and that’s to score. Furthermore, we have seen throughout these playoffs that it doesn’t necessarily matter what kind of offensive night Kobe has, he could score 40 or he could score 10 and the Lakers could still find a way to lose or win, it’s all about whether this team is clicking on all cylinders and last night, they weren’t.
Ron Artest was non-existent in game 1. It often seems unless Artest has definitive defensive assignment, his effectiveness is diminished. The Lakers might want to consider putting Artest on Nowitzki to keep him engaged.
Panic shouldn’t be setting in just yet for Lakers fans, the Lakers also lost game 1 to the Hornets in the first round.
If you’re a stats guy, the team that wins game one has gone on to win the series 78 percent of the time.