2011 NBA WEST SEMIS GAME 1 -- Mavericks 96, Lakers 94: My Top 10 Observer-ations
10. Don't lie, you thought it was over. When the Lakers started the second half on a 7-0 run -- thanks to some bone-headed play by DeShawn Stevenson -- and pushed the lead to 16 you went to bed, didn't you? Dallas' comeback last night might have been even more improbable that it coughing up that 23-point lead in Portland in Game 4. Biggest shot of the night: Jason Kidd's 3-pointer that helped cut a 60-44 deficit to 62-54 in like, no time. With the Mavs seemingly on the ropes just a minute before, suddenly they were back in the fight.
9. How the Mavs survived the end-of-the-half brain fart is beyond me. Already down five after surrendering a 12-2 run, Jason Terry inexplicably fouled Lamar Odom on a 60-foot desperation heave with 0.7 seconds remaining. Three free throws, all made. And on the third, Dirk Nowitzki lost his composure and swung an elbow at Ron Artest, who had fouled/pushed him under the basket. That's not un-soft, it's just stupid. End result: The Lakers made four free throws in the half's final second to lead by nine at halftime. Makes Dallas' victory all that more shocking.
8. I talked earlier about the Mavs' tiny margin for error and perfect-shooting recipe for victory. Last night they made almost half their shots (39 of 79), almost half their 3-pointers (9 of 20), 82 percent of their free throws (9 of 11), committed only 11 turnovers and allowed L.A. just 11 offensive rebounds. That's it, the blueprint. Key to the win? Dallas didn't get killed on the glass. Given the Mavs' bench edge in this series, a minus-4 rebounding margin is acceptable. Dirk grabbed 14 boards and props to Brendan Heywood, who played tough defense on Andrew Bynum in a productive 13 minutes.
7. Dirk vs. Kobe was great theater. Bryant scored 36 to Nowitzki's 28 and 14 rebounds. But in the final 20 seconds he missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer, threw a bad pass that Terry stole and also fell down trying to take a hand-off pass from Pau Gasol. While Kobe crumbled, Dirk capped an 11-point fourth quarter with an amazing one-legged, wrong-footed runner over Lamar Odom and then two free throws with 19 seconds remaining.
6. Welcome to Dallas, Corey Brewer. After doing nothing in the regular season and playing only four total minutes against the Blazers, he replaced a ridiculously bad Stevenson in the third quarter and helped Dallas dig out of its hole with a rebound, a steal, a assist, a dunk, a 3-pointer from the corner and decent defense on Kobe. Rick Carlisle played him out of desperation, not inspiration. Nonetheless, I think we'll see him again in Game 2.
5. Not that the Mavs didn't play efficient, earnest basketball, but they also were the recipients of a couple of surprising, favorable calls down the stretch. Gasol's foul on Dirk on the inbound pass was iffy and -- though I think it was the right non-call -- we've seen Kobe get the benefit of the whistle on plays where he stumbles and falls in the final 10 seconds. Kidd didn't shove Bryant, but it was close. Mark Cuban should be happy. And satisfied.
4. Why is it cool -- instead of douchey -- when Jack Nicholson wears his sunglasses indoors? And at night, no less?
3. At the risk of criticizing a coach who has more championship rings than fingers, Lakers' coach Phil Jackson screwed up. Having Gasol on Dirk on Dallas' final set possession just doesn't make sense. The 7-foot Spaniard isn't comfortable playing defense 30 feet from the basket and it showed when he climbed over Nowitzki's back on an inbound pass for a foul that led to -- after a scary, eventually friendly roll around the rim -- two free throws and a 95-94 lead.
2. As an irrationally loyal Dirk fan and Mavs homer who attended preseason game 1 of year 1 back in 1980, I would never be happier than to be wrong about this series. Lakers in 5 looks flimsy right about now and I'm grinnin' ear to ear about it. After the game on TNT Charles Barkley exclaimed "These aren't our ol' daddy's Mavericks." Last night Dallas took a big step in proving me wrong and Barkley right.
1. Whew, meet Wow. You knew the refs weren't going to call the blatant moving screen that Bynum set on Kidd to free up Kobe on L.A.'s final possession. And then you just knew that Bryant was going to drain the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. Back. Rim. Impressive comeback. Exhilerating conclusion. Feel free to exhale. Game 2 tomorrow night at 9:30.
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