It might not seem like much, but it is interesting and yet difficult to play in the Pacific division. Not so much because of teams such as the Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings, but rather because of the Los Angeles Lakers. Indeed, every match up against them invites more scrutiny, more pressure and more intensity from both the players and the fans.
Home games often become a reminder of just how well Lakers fans travel, but this seems to be more visible when the purple and gold play on the road in the state of California. When Kobe Bryant goes to the free throw line at Oracle Arena, we at times feel as though he is playing back at the Staples Center as fans never miss the opportunity to chant “MVP” as he shoots his freebies.
And to be fair, every non-Lakers fan has something to be envious of when watching this proud franchise in action. In the past four seasons alone, the Lakers have a win-loss record of 236-92 while the Golden State Warriors have won 139 games while falling victim to 189 defeats during the same time frame.
During this same stretch, the Lakers have won three Western Conference titles and two back-to-back NBA titles. In addition, their last two rings have boosted their championship banners to the count of 16, which is second most in NBA history only to the Boston Celtics. Needless to say, there is a tremendous amount of prestige associated with the team.
And yet, the Dallas Mavericks failed to display any sense of fear or intimidation against L.A.’s team this year as they dismantled Jerry Buss’ play toy. For all intents and purposes, the Mavs took control of the series by punching the champion in the mouth and never relinquishing their WWE style chokehold on the Lakers.
When it was all said and done, Dallas swept the two-time defending champions despite their late cheap shots in Game 4.
Some might point to the Golden State Warriors upset of the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 2007 postseason to gauge just how much of a shocker the elimination of the Lakers this early was; but the truth is that as surprising as what the Warriors did back then, I would not put it on equal footing as what the 2011 Mavericks just accomplished.
Dallas basically dismantled a Los Angeles team that had been crowned as champions in the previous two seasons.
The Lakers came into the series with the Mavericks with the poise and experience of a champion. They were the team expected to execute under pressure and close out games with key plays at the end of ball games. And yet, it was the Mavericks that made all the plays needed and then some to dethrone Kobe Bryant’s squad.
The purple and gold will probably retool and come back next season as a hungrier team after tasting defeat. They will still be the class of the Pacific division. Let’s be real, until Kobe Bryant retires, the Lakers will probably own the division and continue to add banners (whether those are division, conference or championship banners is still up for debate) at Staples Center, where an already impressive amount of them hang.
The Golden State Warriors in the meantime will try to upgrade the roster and become a better team that hopes to compete at some point at least for a division crown; but until that moment comes, Warriors fans can at least be proud of one accomplishment that still eludes the mighty Lakers franchise: the Dubs won a playoff series against Mark Cuban’s Mavericks.
And much like the Mavericks in 2007, the 2011 Lakers seem to have more questions now than they have answers.