Tag:Jason Terry
Posted on: May 16, 2011 4:47 pm
Edited on: May 16, 2011 4:58 pm
 

What's At Stake: Kevin Durant

What's at stake for Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant in the Western Conference finals? Posted by Ben Golliver.



In his fourth year, Kevin Durant and his Oklahoma City Thunder keep on skipping along at a steady 45 degree angle towards greatness.

Year 1: Rookie of the Year. Year 2: Blossoming star. Year 3: All-Star and scoring champ. Year 4: All-Star, scoring champ, playoff scoring leader. 

Year 1: An ugly final year in Seattle. Year 2: A fresh start in Oklahoma City. Year 3: Playoffs. Year 4: Northwest Division title and Western Conference finals.

For the rest of the league's lottery teams and those trapped in an arguably worse fate -- stuck being average -- the rocketship rags to riches rise of Durant and the Thunder is enough to inspire envy, rage and a whole host of other negative emotions. For everyone else, it's just been jaw-dropping. So good, so fast. So much playoff success seemingly overnight. One can only imagine how much attention Durant's meteoric rise would receive had it not been for Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose, who has accomplishing virtually the same thing but happens to play in a much larger market.

But that's exactly why K.D. has the best of both worlds here. More than anyone else left in the playoffs, Durant gets to enjoy the fruits of his labors without all of the annoying questions and expectations that generally go hand-in-hand with being a superstar in the postseason. Rose, by virtue of being named MVP, playing with a more experienced core and facing off against the Evil Empire that the Miami Heat represent, carries a much heavier expectations burden. He's, essentially, savior rather than upstart. As for the Heat? They must win or their reputation is ruined (at least for the next 12 months). And the Dallas Mavericks must win or they might not get another shot due to age. 

Certainly, the Thunder's deep playoff run didn't come out of nowhere, but only a microscopic percentage of the basketball viewing public will be disappointed or feel let down if Durant isn't able to carry Oklahoma City past the Mavericks and into the NBA Finals. Yes, there would have been some second-guessers if the Thunder had been knocked out by a No. 8 seed. But that didn't happen. Sunday's Game 7 assured the Thunder that there season was a wild success and Durant's closeout performances in both rounds prove he can deliver when it matters most. This year is set.

The future is set up nicely too, further removing any urgency from the Western Conference Finals. The Thunder's championship window is as wide open as Kendrick Perkins when he turns to face the basket at the top of the key. Oklahoma City can and should be making deep playoff runs -- at minimum -- for the next five years, the duration of Durant's contract extension.

With the Thunder, unlike so many other teams, that statement comes with no caveat about the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Durant, Russell Westbrook, Perkins and Nick Collison are all locked in for the foreseeable future, and plenty of other contributors are still on rookie deals too. TOklahoma City is positioned as well as a team can be heading into labor uncertainty: They have a dynamic, do-everything point guard, they have the premier scorer in the game and they have depth in the middle. All the tough questions have been answered. The rest is just roster tweaking, and GM Sam Presti has proven he's up to that task.

For Durant and company, the Western Conference finals against the Mavericks represent simply the first of many showdowns and shootouts. Worst case scenario: They get picked apart by a more experienced team that just picked apart the defending champs. But, in the process, they'll gain valuable big-moment playoff reps. Best case scenario: Their athleticism and fearlessness is too much for the Mavericks to handle, and the dream season continues for another round, reaching impossible heights.

Either way, Durant wins. Here, clearly, he has nothing to lose.
Posted on: May 16, 2011 3:32 pm
Edited on: May 16, 2011 3:33 pm
 

Expert Picks: Western Conference Finals

Our CBSSports.com expert picks leaderboard and predictions for the Western Conference finals. Posted by EOB staff.

Here are the current standings after the first two rounds of the NBA playoffs.

Expert Scores
Expert Right Wrong Bonus Total
Royce Young 8 4 4 20
Ken Berger 9 3 1 19
Jamey Eisenberg 9 3 1 19
Matt Moore 8 4 3 19
Ben Golliver 8 4 1 17
Sergio Gonzalez 7 5 2 16

Here are our picks for the Western Conference finals. 
west-finals
Posted on: May 16, 2011 3:13 pm
Edited on: May 16, 2011 3:38 pm
 

Thunder-Mavericks Preview: Juggernauts collide

The Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks face off in the Western Conference finals. Posted by Ben Golliver.

I. Intro:  No. 4 seed Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27) vs. No. 3 seed Dallas Mavericks (57-25)

The top two seeds in the Western Conference -- the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers -- were dismissed from the playoffs early this year, setting up an entertaining I-35 duel between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks. The two teams present obvious contrasts in age. In a Hoopism.com analysis run back in January, Dallas was the league's oldest team if you weighted by minutes while Oklahoma City was the league's youngest. 

In this case, age ain't nothing but a number. Both the Mavericks and the Thunder enter the Western Conference finals playing exceptional basketball. Dallas has faced stiffer tests, dispatching the Portland Trail Blazers in six games and then sweeping the defending champs, the Lakers, in the second round. The Thunder finds itself here after dispatching the Denver Nuggets in five games and then surviving the playoffs' only seven-game series against the Memphis Grizzlies. Dallas will have nine days of rest in advance of Tuesday night's Game 1; Oklahoma City will have just Monday to get itself together. 

II. What Happened:  A look at the season series

The Mavericks won the season series, 2-1, with the road team winning every game. It's worth noting that All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki did not play in Oklahoma City's win. 

Even more importantly, the most recent game in the series took place on Jan. 6, more than four months ago. The key trade deadline move that landed center Kendrick Perkins in Oklahoma City hadn't yet been completed. Peja Stojakovic, a key playoff performer off of Dallas' bench, also hadn't yet been acquired. 

Every team takes on a new identity in the playoffs, and both of these teams have taken on better identities. From an efficiency standpoint, Dallas was ranked No. 8 on offense and No. 7 on defense in the regular season. In the postseason, those numbers have improved to No. 1 on offense and No. 6 on defense. Oklahoma City, similarly, was ranked No. 4 on offense and No. 13 on defense during the regular season. Those numbers have improved to No. 2 on offense and No. 3 on defense.

III. Secret of the Series: Composure

After such a back-and-forth, emotionally-challenging series against the Grizzlies, the Thunder not only need to pull things together, they need to take it to a new level. The first order is improved consistency on offense, which is funny considering that they have the second best offensive efficiency in the playoffs. The issue is that the production has come in fits and spurts, unstoppable one possession, lost the next. Long stretches without generating quality scoring opportunities against the Mavericks doomed both the Blazers and the Lakers and they will be critical for the Thunder as well.

Dallas, meanwhile, will head into a hostile environment in Games 3, 4 and 6. They've experienced that in Portland but the Blazers do not have players adept at getting to the free throw line like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. How Dallas reacts and responds to the officiating, especially on the road, will be crucial.    

IV. The Line-Item Veto:  Who wins each match-up?

PG: Russell Westbrook is the most polarizing player in this year's postseason, his scoring explosions and unmatched athleticism are winning him many supporters, while his play-calling and turnovers have brought out the detractors. To be sure, Dallas has not faced a point guard like him yet in these playoffs. Portland's Andre Miller is a traditional, on-the-ground play-maker. Ditto for Derek Fisher and Steve Blake. Westbrook's physical tools will surely cause problems for Dallas' backcourt, but we shouldn't overlook how well Jason Kidd has played recently. He's captained Dallas' ship well, setting up the constant five-man attack and stepping in to knock down shots when needed. Westbrook wins the postseason numbers game by a country mile -- putting up 23.9 points and 7.0 assists to Kidd's 10.1 points and 7.2 assists -- but this match-up is much closer than that given the nature of Dallas' team-based attack. Advantage: Thunder. 

SG: This is a (relatively) weak starting position for both teams. The Mavericks have thrown out DeShawn Stevenson and saved Jason Terry for the bench while the Thunder use Thabo Sefalosha early and then often turn to James Harden. Terry demonstrated that he still has plenty of jet fuel left when he hit nine three-pointers in one game to eliminate the Lakers. Harden has stepped up in somewhat surprising fashion, averaging 12.4 points and serving as a primary distributor at times, but Terry is clearly the best player in this group. His shot has been on -- to the tune of 52.$% shooting in the playoffs -- and his chemistry with Nowitzki is unmatched. Advantage: Mavericks.

SF: Oklahoma City's clearest match-up advantage comes in the form of the NBA's 22-year-old scoring leader Kevin Durant, who has simply been unstoppable at times during the postseason run. While Dallas doesn't have a great individual match-up to slow him down -- Shawn Marion is too short and none of their post players are athletic or versatile enough to step out -- the Mavericks succeeded in containing all sorts of potent offensive threats, including Gerald Wallace, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. None of those has Durant's range but Dallas will rely on its principles -- Tyson Chandler holding down the paint, a touch of zone, hard closeouts on shooters, a good understanding of who to leave open -- to try to limit Durant's game-changing impact. While Marion is no Durant, he's no slouch. He's solidly put up 9.7 points and 6.4 rebounds, proving to be a capable scoring option when teams overload on Nowitzki or Terry. Advantage: Thunder.

PF: Dirk Nowitzki is playing arguably the best basketball of anyone in the world right now, putting up 26.5 points and 8.4 rebounds so far in the playoffs. With his teammates shooting so well, he hasn't had to do it alone and, to his credit, he's recognized that brilliantly. Unlike so many other superstars, Nowitzki rarely finds himself grinding the overall offensive flow to a halt. His points come in rhythm and, late in the game, often at the free throw line, so his efficiency always remains high. The Thunder will likely throw everyone -- Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, etc. -- they've got at him, just like the Blazers and Lakers did, and it won't much matter. Nowitzki is getting his. Ibaka, a tremendous shot-blocker, will likely have some of his value mitigated in this series due to the perimeter nature of Dallas' attack. Advantage: Mavericks.  

C: During the regular season match-ups, Mavericks center averaged 15.3 rebounds per game against the Thunder. Of course, that was before Kendrick Perkins arrived to supplement Oklahoma City's frontline. Chandler is the unsung hero of this Dallas run, making Nowitzki's life easier, cleaning the glass like crazy and finishing at the rim when necessary. He hasn't been bothered by the girth of Andrew Bynum nor the length of Marcus Camby. Perkins' rebounding and toughness were crucial in neutralizing Memphis' inside advantages but he will have his hands full with Chandler. The great equalizer could be foul trouble, as Chandler will need to avoid cheap ones, especially against Westbrook's relentless attacks. Advantage: Mavericks.

Bench: Between the shooting of Terry and Stojakovic and the incisive drives of J.J. Barea, Dallas' bench has been essentially unstoppable so far in the playoffs. There's not a great defender among them but it hasn't mattered, as they've regularly caught fire and outscored their counterparts, often by a factor of 2-1. Oklahoma City brings Harden and Collison to the table, but this could easily be the series in which Daequon Cook and Eric Maynor are exposed as being in over their heads. Advantage: Mavericks.  

Coach: Rick Carlisle has been sensational, carrying his team through a demoralizing collapse against the Blazers in Game 4 and pushing all the right buttons to frustrate the Lakers. Scott Brooks, meanwhile, has been the focus of a lot of ire for his lack of late-game creativity on offense. Far too often, Westbrook and Durant (especially Westbrook) would be operating one-on-one with no real direction. That works against the likes of the Grizzlies, but not against a two-way machine like the Mavericks. Carlisle had loads more experience and the full faith of his veteran team. The Thunder, as good as they are, often look like they're still working out the kinks on the fly. Advantage Mavericks.

V. Conclusion

So far during these playoffs, no one has better or more consistently than the Mavericks. Dallas has home court advantage, a ton of time to rest heading into Game 1 and the best performer in this year's postseason in Nowitzki. They have the best bench, a more-than-capable center and are playing with the urgency that comes with this possibly being the group's last stand. The Thunder bring two of the most dynamic young players to the game, a solid rotation and. more than anything, a degree of athleticism that Dallas hasn't yet seen. Dallas has answered tough tests already and they should be up to this challenge. Mavericks in six.
Posted on: May 9, 2011 2:16 pm
 

Lakers backing gently off "blow up" talk

Mitch Kupchak says not to worry too much about Magic's "blow it up" comments. But if not a complete self-destruction, is a major remodeling on the way,and how does a new coach fit into this?
Posted by Matt Moore




Sure, you were just swept out of the playoffs in what should have been the culmination of so much work, effort, and money spent in order to achieve a three-peat and send your expensive Hall of Fame coach out in style. Sure, your roster was relatively exposed as lackadaisical, lacking in focus, determination, heart, and eventually class. And yes, the idea has always been to reload when the shots don't quite hit their target, which is always championship gold. 

But the Lakers? They're not looking to follow Magic Johnson's advice and blow it up. Not yet, anyway. And not completely. 

From Sports Illustrated: 
(Lakers GM Mitch) Kupchak cautioned against the idea that Johnson's recent comments on ABC were an early indication of things to come. The Lakers' legend had all but written his favorite team off during his television analysis, then recommended Kupchak "blow it up" by trading one of his frontcourt players for Orlando's Dwight Howard as a means to keeping the dynasty intact.

Jackson called the comment "unnecessary" before tip-off, while Kupchak largely dismissed the notion raised by some fans that it was an in-house sentiment being shared publicly. Howard is believed to be eyeing the Lakers as a possible landing spot when he becomes a free agent in 2012, however, meaning this storyline won't be going away anytime soon.

"I thought Earvin was trying to motivate our players," Kupchak said. "He's great at cheering for us, and a lot of times saying stuff like he said can motivate a player to play harder. That's how I took it.

"I talk to Earvin from time to time, and I think Dr. Buss [owner Jerry Buss] does from time to time, and this moves too quickly for him to be intimately involved in what's going on day to day, so I would hesitate to think that was the case."
via Lakers fall apart against Mavericks in Phil Jackson's farewell - Sam Amick - SI.com.

Not surprising that Magic isn't plugged into the day to day ops, especially having sold his stake, despite retaining a front office position. But the question is whether the Lakers are correct in this train of thought. One issue that isn't being talked about here is pretty obvious. This roster was constructed to play for Phil Jackson. 

And that definitely won't be the case next season. 

From ESPN:
Jackson might've played coy in what was likely his final postgame press conference, joking "I haven't answered that, have I?" when pressed for a definitive statement on whether he'd coached his final NBA game Sunday. But Kupchack says he believes Jackson's decision to retire is final this time.

"I think this is it," Kupchak told ESPNLosAngeles after the Lakers were swept out of the playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks 122-86 on Sunday. "We'll sit down and talk, but I've gotten no indication that he won't retire.

"We just talked briefly and I thanked him for what he's done for the organization. It was a pleasure to work with him. Everybody who is a coach in this league works endless hours. I'm not going to say he works harder than any other coach in this league. He certainly works as hard as any of them.

"But he's different. He's got a feel that I think a lot of coaches don't have."
via Los Angeles Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak senses Phil Jackson set to retire - ESPN Los Angeles.

With Jackson gone, Brian Shaw is the favorite to get the Lakers' head coaching job. But after the abject meltdown that occured on a chemistry level, the job will probably be open to several applicants. ESPN also reports the job is "wide open" and with candidates like Jeff Van Gundy, Rick Adelman, and Larry Brown on the market, you have to think ownership will take a long look at its options. And if there is a change in the coaching line, the new coach will want players to fit his personnel. 

The question of Dwight Howard will come back around again and again this summer once the CBA is resolved (if it's resolved). In case you missed it in the fall of Rome, here's Ken Berger of CBSSports.com on Howard and the Lakers: 
Everybody knows that Dwight Howard wants to be a Laker," said a person familiar with the All-Star centers plans. "Theyre going to lose Dwight Howard for nothing. Hes not staying there. Dwight Howard is going to be in the same mode as LeBron James."

So would the Magic, facing the reality of losing their franchise cornerstone and getting nothing in return, accept Gasol and Odom, Bynum and Odom, or even Bynum and Gasol as the centerpiece of a Howard trade?"Probably," said a high-profile agent with a hand in past maneuverings for both teams.
via Fast-approaching offseason critical for Lakers - NBA - CBSSports.com Basketball.

Landing Howard would automatically put the Lakers back at the top of the contenders list, though they may be there anyway, even with the Dallas Meltdown. But it comes with its own set of issues, including giving the reins of a veteran club to a younger player. How's Kobe Bryant going to react to being the No.2 for the first time since the first W. Bush term in his final ride into the sunset? Will the Magic really want Andrew Bynum after he embarrassed himself, his family, and his organization with (another) needless foul that could have resulted in injury and will definitely result in his suspension for multiple games next year, along with his injury issues on a long contract? 

There's time for all this, and the Lakers will take it. They are unlikely to "blow it up" and more likely to simply try and pick their favorite from the NBA's buffet as in year's past. But deals like the Pau Gasol trade don't come along twice in a four-year span, and with the franchise tag a possibility to come out of the CBA, life may be significantly different for L.A. after the seconds ticked off the Phil Jackson era in Dallas. 

Things aren't as simple as pushing the "self-destruct" button and starting over. Even Athens fell, and an immediate return to glory isn't always guaranteed for those blessed by the Gods for so long. 

But I wouldn't bet against them.
Posted on: May 9, 2011 1:42 pm
Edited on: May 9, 2011 1:48 pm
 

Pau Gasol had a bad week

Pau Gasol loses fiance, has tension with Lakers, is swept from playoffs. Other than that, things aren't bad for the 7-foot Spaniard. 
Posted by Matt Moore




Let's take a look at Pau Gasol's week: 

  • Dumped by his long-time girlfriend: check. 
  • Challenged and pushed physically by Phil Jackson, who notoriously does not get up in player's faces or ever touch them during games: check.
  • Dominated against Euro 7-footer, exposing him as an inferior to Dirk Nowitzki: check.
  • Swept from playoffs in attempt for three-peat, and failed to send arguably the greatest coach in NBA history out on a high note: check.

Yeah, that's a pretty bad week. 

Gasol was reported to be upset with Kobe Bryant over his wife's involvement in Gasol's girlfriend's decision to break up with him earlier in the week. Gasol admitted there was some tension in the locker room, but also denied Bryant's involvement. It's not really worth pursuing, since it's none of our business and it doesn't change the result. It's understandable that Gasol would be upset about something in his personal life like that, but in the biggest series of the year for the Lakers, they needed their big man, and he wasn't there. It's a rough patch of luck, but you have to fight through it if you want to be a champion, as cliche as that sounds. 

Perhaps more important, though, is this point. Regardless of what was going on with Gasol, he still could have dominated had the Mavericks not played him so well. They sent effective doubles, brought help when he got to the corner, challenged his turnarounds enough to drive him too deep baseline, and stayed aggressive on the defensive boards to not allow those tip-ins.  Pau Gasol has a terrible week, one that has changed Laker fans' perception of him despite his pivotal role in the Lakers' two championships, but it should be noted that it was a two way street. Gasol fell apart when the Lakers needed him most, and the Mavericks did what they had to in order to take away the Lakers' second best player. 

If the last few weeks have been interesting for Gasol, the next few months could be even moreso. 
Posted on: May 7, 2011 9:44 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 9:49 pm
 

Kobe Bryant predicts series win over Mavericks

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant says he thinks Los Angeles can come back from a 3-0 series deficit to the Dallas Mavericks. Posted by Ben Golliver.

kobe-fail

The Los Angeles Lakers' season could end as soon as Sunday night. Down 3-0 to the Dallas Mavericks with Game 4 in American Airlines Center, the Lakers will look to keep hople alive their season after three straight games featuring fourth quarter meltdowns. There has been plenty of blame to go around, 

While no NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, ESPNLA.com reports that Bryant not only still has hope, he's predicting a series victory.
"I don't know, I might be sick in the head or crazy or thrown off or something like that because I still think we're going to win this series," Bryant said after totaling 17 points and six assists in Game 3. "I might be nuts. ... Let's win on Sunday, go back home and see if they can win in L.A."
We shouldn't expect less from Bryant, one of the league's most confident and decorated players. He isn't going to fold in the face of adversity, at least not publicly. With Games 4 and 6 still to be played in Dallas, however, L.A. faces an extremely tall order. It's better to go down with your head up, I suppose.

What happens in the very likely event that the Lakers aren't able to make good on Bryant's prediction? Ken Berger of CBSSports.com explores that subject, saying that trades, possibly including some big names, are likely in L.A.'s future.

The New York Times notes that Lakers legend Magic Johnson agrees with that assessment.
“If the Lakers lose this game, you’re going to have to blow it up,” Magic Johnson, the former Lakers great, said on ESPN. “This team has been together too long. It’s time for major changes for the Lakers.”
Posted on: May 7, 2011 1:33 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 2:54 pm
 

Gasol says he needs to 'snap out of it'

Posted by Royce Young



It was obvious to Phil Jackson early on. I've seen Phil get animated, but during a break in the first half last night against the Mavericks, Jackson went right after Pau Gasol, even giving him a little bump in the chest with his fist. Later, Jackson zeroed in on Gasol again, giving him what some would call, a "butt-chewing."

Gasol got the message. His play didn't necessarily reflect it, but he says he got the message, according to Yahoo! Sports:

He’s “out of it” mentally and hasn’t been able to be “effective or comfortable out there,” but couldn’t explain why and says he needs to “snap out of it.” Time is running out….

“It’s been tough,” Gasol simply said. “It’s been tough more than anything [because] of the losses.”

When asked if this poor playoff season ruins his previous Laker accomplishments, Gasol sternly responded: “You tell me? Should it? I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

That's not good news for a team down 0-3. Also not good because Andrew Bynum was vocal after Game 2 about "trust issues." The Lakers are clearly having problems right now and most will point directly at Gasol. He's a player as responsible for their back-to-back titles as anyone, but within the triangle offense, it's almost as Pau goes, the Lakers go.

In this series, he's averaging just 13 points per game on 42.8 percent shooting. For the playoffs, the numbers are virtually the same. Against the Hornets, Gasol was a disappointment, but L.A. advanced because, well, they were playing Chris Paul and four dudes that stumbled in from Mardi Gras.

But against the Mavericks, it's another story. Not only is Gasol not contributing to the Laker offense, Dirk Nowitzki is torching him. According to ESPN State and Info, 27 of Dirk's 32 came with Gasol "on" him. (I put "on" in quotes because there were a few times where Gasol was decidedly not on him.) For the series, Nowitzki is shooting 19-25 from the floor for 42 points when Gasol checks him. That's ridiculous on Dirk's behalf and inexcusable on Gasol's.

Gasol's shimmering reputation as one of the most gifted big men in the league is taking a serious tarnishing right now. He's the focus of a lot of negativity. Andrew Bynum was visibly keyed in and aggressive all night. Gasol gave away an easy Jason Terry dunk at one point because he was barely holding on to the ball. Jackson claimed that was the play he first singled Gasol out on, but it's much more than that.

It speaks to the respect we all have for Jackson, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers that we haven't completely ruled them out from being the first team ever to come back from 0-3. (Or maybe that speaks to the Mavs. I don't know.) They aren't out of it until the buzzer sounds and Dallas has more points than them in a clinching fourth win. But if they have any dreams of getting there, any dreams of winning a third consecutive title, Gasol must absolutely snap out of it.
Posted on: May 7, 2011 2:38 am
Edited on: May 7, 2011 5:40 am
 

NBA Playoffs Mavs-Lakers: The Panic Button

The Lakers have never had a reason to panic, until now. 
Posted by Matt Moore




There's never a good time to panic. It does you no good to freak out, and the only way to solve a problem that would call for such behavior is to behave in the exact opposite manner; with poise and control.  And for a championship team like the Lakers, there's no such thing as a panic button. They've been victorious too often, overcome too many challenges, risen up and simply been better in too many series. They don't know what the panic button looks like. 

But maybe they should after Game 3's stunning loss to the Mavericks, to go down 0-3. Maybe then they'd have some level of urgency in their play, some level of commitment to closing games. The Lakers we're witnessing are in many ways the ultimate embodiment of the team we've seen for years in L.A. . They assume they'll be better simply by having the talent. Victory is assured once they step on the floor, even if Ron Artest doesn't step on said floor. Instead, they've found themselves on the brink, as Dallas has surged ahead in every fourth quarter of this series. And what does Kobe Bryant say after the game?

“I might be sick in the head … because I still think we’re going to win the series,” Bryant said. “I might be nuts.”

Bryant said he wasn't discouraged after the game. In the same calm, cool, collected manner, he exuded confidence bordering on arrogance, even after he started 5-5... and finished 3-11, with a key turnover late that may or may not have been Pau Gasol's fault. Bryant's not concerned because when he's had the manpower, he's never failed. 2005-2007? He could blame the roster. Not this one. This one is on the mindset, and that reflects its leader. So why is Bryant so calm, cool, and collected?
Because he can be. Because if any team can come back from an 0-3 deficit for the first time in league history, it's the Lakers, and if any team could cough it up, it's the Mavericks. It seems absurd that it has come to this, but it here we are. Bryant remains indignant to the idea that the Lakers should be concerned. After Game 2, Bryant told reporters that everyone was "trippin'" because they acted like no one had ever won two games before. In reality, they were talking about winning two games on the road after blowing your first two at home. Bryant never wavered from the script after Game 3, talking about mental mistakes like this was a game against Minnesota in February. There's maintaining your composure, and there's refusing to acknowledge your situation. 

There was discussion that the Lakers played "desperate" in Game 3, but we saw the same lazy rotations, the same deviation from effective strategy, the same failure to secure key plays. They are who they've been: a team with extremely talented players with superior physical attributes that doesn't respond when challenged. In years past, the Lakers would respond right when they had to in order to avoid hitting the panic button. 

Panicking won't help the Lakers win Game 4, or four straight, which is what they must do. But coming to terms with their situation may be the only way for the Lakers to really see where they've landed. There's a time for patience, confidence and even arrogance. 

That time has come and gone. If the Lakers can win this series, it will be the ultimate validator of their overconfidence. If they cannot, it will be the final verdict on a core that won two titles and yet infuriated its fans and too often played with the flame. 

Eventually you get burned. 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com