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May 5, 2011
Playoff Prospectus
Clang

by Kevin Pelton

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Dallas 93, at L.A. Lakers 81 (Dallas leads 2-0)
Pace: 85.9
Offensive Ratings: Dallas 107.4, L.A. Lakers 95.0

 5:47 1 Kobe Bryant misses 26-foot three point jumper
 2:32 1 Ron Artest misses 27-foot three point jumper
 0:11 1 Steve Blake misses 26-foot three point jumper
 2:27 2 Derek Fisher misses 28-foot three point jumper
 0:26 2 Kobe Bryant misses 28-foot three point jumper
 0:01 2 Lamar Odom misses 35-foot three point jumper
11:18 3 Ron Artest misses 24-foot three point jumper
10:33 3 Derek Fisher misses 25-foot three point jumper
 2:33 3 Steve Blake misses three point jumper
 2:28 3 Steve Blake misses 24-foot three point jumper
11:41 4 Steve Blake misses 26-foot three point jumper
 8:53 4 Matt Barnes misses 28-foot three point jumper
 6:22 4 Kobe Bryant misses three point jumper
 4:58 4 Shannon Brown misses 24-foot three point jumper

Above is the complete list of the 14 three-pointers the Los Angeles Lakers missed to start Game Two before Kobe Bryant finally made their first three of the night with just under three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. By that point, Dirk Nowitzki had already delivered a dagger three-point play to all but seal the Dallas Mavericks' second consecutive win at the Staples Center.

It's difficult to attribute an entire game to a single factor, but it's hard not to think the Lakers' three-point drought cost them Wednesday night's game. Based on regular-season averages, the players who took the 14 three-pointers should have been expected to make almost exactly five of them. Give the Lakers those 15 points and all of a sudden a double-digit deficit turns into a narrow lead. In every other facet of offense, the Lakers were better than they were in Game One, when their defense was much more clearly the issue, but their terrible shooting from beyond the arc did that in.

Three-point shooting is more than just an offensive issue, certainly, but the Lakers generally got good looks. They've shot reasonably well from downtown during the playoffs entering tonight (34.9 percent versus 35.2 percent during the regular season), Sometimes, the shots just don't fall, and tonight may have been one of those nights.

As poorly as the Lakers shot, they still entered the fourth quarter down just six points. That's when Jose Barea made his impact felt. Running the high pick-and-roll with Dirk Nowitzki, Barea controlled the game. Barea's quick penetration broke down the Lakers defense and forced them into scramble mode. Between his own scores, assists and one miss that Brendan Haywood tipped in, Barea was responsible for 13 of the Mavericks' first 16 points during the final period..

Thanks to Barea and Haywood (eight rebounds in 17 excellent minutes), Dallas had a bench advantage even on a night where Peja Stojakovic and Jason Terry failed to find the range (they shot a combined 5-of-21 from the field). The Mavericks made runs in both halves with their second unit in the game. (As Ben Golliver notes on Eye on Sports, this is nothing new for the Dallas bench.) Now, Phil Jackson is staring at the prospect of reworking his rotation with Ron Artest likely to be suspended for Game 3 after forearm shivering Barea late in the game. Most likely, Matt Barnes will get the start, but Artest's absence could mean more minutes for Shannon Brown, Luke Walton and even Lamar Odom at the three. For a team that is not used to switching things up--the Lakers have used just two starting lineups all season long--that could be an issue.

The Lakers also have to figure out some answers for the power forward battle. They've yet to find a good matchup for Nowitzki, who scored an efficient 24 points on 16 shooting possessions. Odom figured to be the best option there, but he's been invisible in the series and watched the stretch run from the bench. That Pau Gasol would struggle to defend Nowitzki on the perimeter was no surprise, but on paper he should have had an equal advantage on the offensive end. Instead, Gasol can get no traction in the post and shot 5-of-12 from the field in Game Two.

L.A.'s three-point shooting returning to form is the best reason not to write this series off, but the Lakers face two major problems nonetheless. The first, naturally, is that Game Two isn't coming back. As a result, the Lakers have to win four of the next five games despite playing three of them on the road. Beyond that, even if we credit them for better three-point shooting, the Lakers have at best played even with Dallas over the first 96 minutes of this series while at home. Things won't get any easier on the road.

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Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Kevin by clicking here or click here to see Kevin's other articles.

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Playoff Prospectus (05/05)
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Playoff Prospectus (05/05)
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Playoff Prospectus (05/07)
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Premium Article Underestimated (05/06)

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