If the Los Angeles Lakers were going to lose before the NBA Finals, you'd have thought they'd be done in by a young insurrection, not a team just as old as the Lakers, outplaying the two-time champions in the clutch. But that's what has happened in two of the three Lakers' losses against the Mavericks: Dallas has played nearly mistake-free in the closing minutes, while L.A. has let the miscues pile up.
Game 3 saw two key Lakers' turnovers late. With 3-1/2 minutes left, Kobe Bryant made a move on Jason Kidd to get into the mid-range on the right elbow, but a quick double-team emerged and he couldn't get a clean shot off after rising. He improvised with a jump pass to Pau Gasol, who was under the rim. Problem: Pau was boxing out for a potential offensive rebound, not paying attention to the ball. It bounced off of his back and Tyson Chandler picked up. The Mavericks began a secondary fast break, and Kobe fouled Kidd around midcourt. Kidd brought the Mavericks to within a point.
The Mavericks led by four with 18.7 seconds remaining with Derek Fisher taking the sideline inbounds pass opportunity. Dallas had subbed in Shawn Marion for hot-shooting Peja Stojakovic to defend Lamar Odom, and Marion pressured him in the extended strong-side post. But Fisher's pass into Odom took a bad angle and went a little deep, and the ball bounced off of Odom's fingertips and out-of-bounds. Jason Terry hit a pair of free throws on the next Dallas possession to give the Mavericks the insurmountable six-point lead.
For the game, L.A. did a fantastic job limiting turnovers, with only 10. But these two helped the turn the game and give Dallas a commanding 3-0 series lead.