The result in Dallas wasn't a surprise, though the magnitude was. The Lakers lost by 36 points to the Mavericks and temporarily imploded as a franchise. The result in Atlanta WAS a big surprise, as the Hawks got up off the mat to score a double digit victory over the startled Chicago Bulls...
DALLAS 122, LA LAKERS 86
3-pointers: Lakers 5/24, Dallas 20/32
No other stats mattered! The rest was just trivia. Well, trivia and meltdowns. The general themes we've been discussing through the series magnified themselves in one big grand finale.
*Dallas owned the arc, and the Lakers couldn't get out there to guard the various weapons. It's like LA lost an extra half step with each passing day. They got reasonably close to shooters when allowing 8 of 25 in Game Two...not so close when allowing 12 of 29 in Game Three...and not in the same zip code when allowing 20 of 32 today. (Credit of course to Dallas for shooting lights out with those open looks...an amazing performance in a playoff game no matter where the defense was).
*The Dallas bench was MUCH better than the Lakers bench. Dallas didn't even have to worry about getting Lakers starters into foul trouble. The bench just came in and produced. The Lakers got little on either end from their subs. That caused the starters to wear down badly.
*The "every other day" format played right into the hands of Dallas because of their depth and spread attack. Nightmare scenario for LA in a way that wasn't fully appreciated going in (except by the Mavs, who we know had that on their minds before Game One).
I probably haven't been giving Dirk Nowitzki enough credit in the write-ups this week. It's not that I think he's irrelevant. But, he's more of an inside the arc player...and the Lakers were winning inside the arc.
1+2 Margins: Lakers by 10, 6, 21, 9
Trey Margins: Mavs by 12, 18, 27, 45
Clearly the potency of Dirk on offense helped prevent the Lakers from covering the arc to the degree that was needed. I guess I'm saying that Dirk could have been counteracted by the Lakers inside talent if Dallas wasn't making all of those treys. Stars cancel out to a degree, and the treys become the tie-breaker (or the inside deficit buster).
Dallas averaged 8 treys per game during the regular season. If you give them eight in each game here, they lose the opener by 1, win Game Two by 12, lose Game Three by 6, and today's game would have gone overtime. Entirely different series. Dirk's a star, and helped neutralize opposing stars so the treys and the bench could provide the victory margins.
I'll talk more about this in the Western Conference Championship preview. Whoever they face, Dallas will run into a team that's not as easily dominated by treys. Memphis completely disrupted San Antonio's trey attack (as an average of 8.4 per game for the Spurs fell to 6-7-2-5-7-5). Oklahoma City was facing a Denver team in the first round that averaged 8.1 per game in the regular season. The Thunder outscored the Nuggets from behind the arc in that series.
ATLANTA 100, CHICAGO 88
2-point pct: Chicago 47%, Atlanta 52%
3-pointers: Chicago 3/16, Atlanta 4/11
Free Throws: Chicago 21/27, Atlanta 16/20
Rebounds: Chicago 37, Atlanta 36
1's and 2's: Chicago 79, Atlanta 88
I included free throws because Derrick Rose had happy feet again and worked his way to the free throw line. He was 9 of 11 from the charity stripe after going 0-0, 4-6, and 8-9 in the first three games. You can see his ankle improving in that sequence. And, tonight, he seemed to have good backward and side-to-side movement for the first time in quite a while (I hope I haven't ruined the series for you by encouraging you to look at his feet all night!).
It's funny how Rose could mostly only go forward at reasonable speed in Game Three, yet scored a million points because Atlanta's defense was inexplicably passive. Tonight, Atlanta got much more aggressive...and Rose's confidence with his movement really got him into trouble. He was constantly running into blocked shots or ill-advised shooting attempts. He seemed to get a bit tired in the fourth quarter too, leading to this awful sequence that pretty much decided the game.
CHICAGO LEADS 76-75 WITH 9:00 LEFT
8:52: Rose misses 14-foot runner
8:36: Rose misses 8-footer
8:00: Rose misses driving layup
(Korver makes a deuce, and Gibson makes 2 FT's---80-78 Bulls)
6:09: shot clock turnover
5:48: Rose bad pass
5:07: Rose makes 7-footer (but misses FT)
4:30: Rose makes driving layup
3:51: Rose misses driving layup
3:36: Rose misses 6-footer
3:02: Rose loses ball
2:27: Rose loses ball
Chicago was down 6 at the time of that last turnover, and Atlanta would dunk on the next possession to take an 8-point lead with two minutes to go at 92-84.
In those six minutes that decided the game, Rose was 2-7 shooting, suffered three turnovers, and was the point guard during a shot clock violation.
He got his legs back and ran himself, and his team, into trouble as he was re-adjusting to his returning horsepower.
Chicago still looks to be in good shape in the series because they have home court advantage...they have the league MVP back very close to normal health...and we've seen that Atlanta has trouble stringing together good games. What's scary for Chicago is that their perimeter shooting just comes and goes with little warning.
2-Point Percentages: 45%, 45%, 46%, 47%
3-Point Percentages: 44%, 23%, 50%, 19%
Tough to see the stars aligning for Atlanta twice in the next three games. Chicago still isn't master of its universe though when it comes to playoff basketball. A #1 seed shouldn't be having this much trouble with an Indiana-Atlanta sequence, even accounting for injuries.
Two games Monday Night. Back about an hour after the second game ends...