Lakers Vs. Mavericks, Game 3: Kobe Bryant, Champs Have Backs Against The Wall

The Los Angeles Lakers aren't used to being the underdog, not after three straight Western Conference titles and two consecutive NBA Championships. It feels foreign to count the team out, to prep the dirt for imminent burial. This is the Los Angeles Lakers -- Phil Jackson, he of 11 championships as a coach; Kobe Bryant, the five-time champ and former MVP; Pau Gasol, one of the most skilled big men in the league and a champion in two continents. This team doesn't get punked, at least not since Gasol arrived to give Kobe an appropriate ballast.

But the Dallas Mavericks are punking the Lakers. Dirk Nowitzki's brutal shake on Gasol in the closing minutes of Game 2 -- this one:

... that was emblematic of what the Mavericks have done to the Lakers in this series. Dallas has been smooth and electric, rendering L.A. witnesses of their own demise. That's not normal, and this is not normal.

When the teams re-engage in Dallas on Friday night for Game 3 (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), the Lakers will need to take the role the Mavericks have through two games. L.A. needs to play with that confidence and fearlessness instead of tentative and reactionary style. The Lakers need to be the aggressors, something that hasn't been a problem over the past three seasons.

We'll see if Jackson and Bryant have one more trick up their sleeves.

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.

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