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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mavericks move out to 3-0 lead on Lakers

AP

DALLAS — Just when they were about to make things interesting, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers blew it.

News photo
Be like Mike: Chicago's Derrick Rose goes up for a shot in between Atlanta's Joe Johnson and Jeff Teague in the first quarter of Game 3 on Friday . The Bulls won 99-82 and lead the series 2-1. AP PHOTO

Unable to stop Dirk Nowitzki all night, and their big lineup too slow to cover the outside shooting of Peja Stojakovic and Jason Terry down the stretch, the Lakers lost 98-92 to the Dallas Mavericks on Friday to fall in a 3-0 hole in their second-round series.

All 98 teams in NBA history that have trailed by that margin have wound up losing the series. Thus, the Lakers' two-year reign as NBA champions and their three-year grip on the Western Conference crown, plus the unprecedented coaching career of Phil Jackson, are all on the brink of going kaput — maybe even with the humiliation of a sweep.

Of all the reasons they're in this predicament, the most stunning is that this pedigreed team has fallen apart when it matters most. They wasted a 16-point lead in Game 1, losing at the buzzer when a 3-pointer by Bryant went in and out, and they failed to hold a seven-point lead with 5:05 left in this game. Dallas rallied with an 18-6 run jump-started by 3s by Nowitzki and Stojakovic.

"We're disappointed," said Jackson, who has never been down 3-0 in a series, much less been swept, in 20 years as an NBA coach. "We feel like Games 1 and 3 we controlled the pace of the games. They were better at finishing the games than we were. But we still believe we're going to win the next game and we'll go from there."

The Mavericks pulled this game out by scoring 32 points in the fourth quarter, the most by either team in any period this series. Bryant said the Lakers helped by making "some of the dumbest defensive mistakes I've seen us make all year."

Bryant is not conceding the series. While he knows the history of NBA teams down 3-0, he also knows that MLB and NHL teams have pulled off this kind of comeback.

"I might be sick in the head or crazy because I think we're still going to win the series," Bryant said. "Win on Sunday, go back home and see if they can win in L.A."

Missing the suspended Ron Artest, Jackson gambled with a starting lineup featuring Lamar Odom at small forward, alongside Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. The Lakers logically pounded the ball inside, and controlled the game nearly the entire second half.

Perhaps Artest's absence caught up to them at the end. Jackson acknowledged "there was some fatigue factor in there." He also admitted that his super-sized lineup was much better protecting the paint than defending the 3-point line.

Nowitzki scored 32 points, making 12 of 19 shots. Terry scored 23, including some of the points that helped ice the victory in the closing minutes.

Stojakovic scored 11 of his 15 in the final quarter.

Bynum had 21 points and 10 rebounds. Odom scored 18 and Bryant scored 17.

Bulls 99, Hawks 82

In Atlanta, Derrick Rose looked every bit like the MVP, slicing up the Hawks for a career-high 44 points as Chicago seized control of the Eastern Conference semifinals with its best performance of the postseason.

The Bulls lead the series 2-1, putting Atlanta in must-win position heading into Game 4 Sunday night.

Rose was dominant from the opening tip, slashing into the lane for a basket that prompted Atlanta to call a timeout before game was a minute old. He finished off the Hawks midway through the fourth with back-to-back 3-pointers, hopping down the court, serenaded by chants of "MVP! MVP!" from a hefty contingent of Bulls fans.

"Just attacking the whole game," Rose said. "That was my whole thought process."

Jeff Teague had 21 points for Atlanta.



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