The Los Angeles Lakers lost Game 1 against the Dallas Mavericks with Kobe Bryant hitting almost half of his shots, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom tallying double-doubles and shooting 50 percent, and with only Dirk Nowitzki playing magnificently for the challengers.
That's why the Lakers ought to worry. Dallas is good.
The Lakers' own miscues in the closing minute -- a turnover by Kobe, a turnover by Pau, a bad foul by Pau, a bricked game-winner by Kobe -- are snowflakes; while Kobe is prone to thinking he has a God mode to turn on in the final minutes, and while that doesn't exist and instead results in a predictable Lakers attack in crunch time best defended by making everyone watch Bryant and prep for the rebound, L.A. can and do win close games. Repeat the final 20 seconds of Game 1 -- Lakers up two with the ball -- a hundred times, and the Lakers come away with 90 or more wins. That was an odd finish, and that which makes things odd is rarity.
But Nowitzki's success isn't rare, or odd. And the Lakers showed absolutely no ability to control Dirk, who had 28 points on 11-22 shooting. Ron Artest is asking to guard Nowitzki at times in Game 2; while Ron-Ron is certainly strong and agile, Dirk's release is almost unblockable ... especially by players five inches shorter, with shorter wingspans. Artest's defense will be focused on irritating Dirk, preventing the dribble and trying to strip on the way up. But if Jason Kidd can find Dirk in catch-and-shoot situations? It's over.
The Lakers could very well win four straight here, or Dallas could pull the upset of the postseason (we're including the Grizzlies in that). It's anyone's series, and given the way L.A. has treated the Western Conference over the past three years, that's exciting.
Be sure to check out our Lakers vs. Mavericks hub for full series coverage. For more on the Lakers, visit Silver Screen And Roll and SB Nation Los Angeles. For more on the Mavericks, visit Mavs Moneyball and SB Nation Dallas.