Are the Lakers dead?

Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) bites his jersey in a loss to the Dallas Mavericks during Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference semifinal basketball playoff in Los Angeles, California May 4, 2011. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Short answer: No. But they’re on life support.

With Game 1 already in the bag, the Mavericks had very little to lose on Wednesday night. Boosted by the Lakers’ dreadful three-point shooting (2-for-20, 10%), and some nifty play from J.J. Barea (12 points, four assists in 17 minutes), Dallas is leaving L.A. with a 2-0 lead on the defending champs.

Barea’s line does not tell the whole story. In the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter, he had six points and two assists, but literally took over the game offensively for the Mavs. None of the Laker guards (Derek Fisher, Steve Blake or Shannon Brown) could stay with him on the countless ball screens that the Mavs ran during that span. He got into the lane at will and either made the runner/layup or found the open man for the easy attempt. What’s worse — the Lakers couldn’t punish him on the other end of the court because none of those aforementioned guards is a capable post player.

Of course, the Mavs wouldn’t be up 2-0 without Dirk Nowitzki. He scored 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting and hit a series of awkward shots, including a three-point play from 18-feet with 2:50 to play to give Dallas a 13-point lead.

But back to the Lakers, who looked completely out of sorts on Wednesday night. As far as I can tell, they have three major issues in this series:

1. Guard play
Steve Blake (0-5 3PT, two turnovers) was dreadful Wednesday night. He missed all of his shots and had two crucial turnovers in the fourth quarter that enabled the Mavs to expand their lead. Derek Fisher (2-for-7, four points) and Shannon Brown (3-for-4, six points) didn’t do much either. Most importantly, none of these guys could stop J.J. Barea’s game-changing penetration in the fourth quarter.

2. Overconfidence
For years, the Lakers have been able to “turn it on” at will. At the end of the third quarter, Steve Kerr said that he overheard Lamar Odom talking to someone in the crowd about how the Lakers would win the game (at that point L.A. was down six) and then he proceeds to go 1-for-6 in the final period. Kobe did his best to carry his team, but he’s not capable of single-handedly outscoring the Mavs anymore, especially when they’re hitting their shots.

3. Three-point shooting
The Lakers went 2-for-20 from long range and the first make wasn’t until the 2:43 mark in the fourth quarter. In Game 1, they went 5-for-19 (26%), which is better, but that’s not saying much. They’re going to have to start knocking down some shots to draw the Mavs’ defense out of the lane. Right now Dallas is simply crowding the Laker bigs inside. Andrew Bynum (8-for-11, 18 points) doesn’t seem to mind, but Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom are having trouble putting the ball in the basket.

Let’s not forget that these are the champs and they are perfectly capable of winning two games on the road to even up this series. In fact, it might do this team some good to get away from an unsupportive Laker crowd which is clearly too spoiled to realize that its team desperately needs its support. Instead, Laker fans are booing Pau Gasol, who was instrumental in the last two championships. That behavior is befuddling considering what he has meant to the organization over the last three years.

Game 3 is in Dallas on Friday night. Obviously, this is a ‘must-win’ for L.A., but the Mavs would do well to treat it as a Game 7. There is blood in the water and the last thing Dallas needs to do is give this Laker team some confidence.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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