The Dallas Mavericks are one win away from sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers. No, you did not read that wrong.
Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs are playing their best basketbal of the year, and not only did they go on the road in games one and two and absolutely undress the Lakers on their home floor, they made a huge fourth quarter comeback, ignited the home crowd, and took game three to take a 3-0 series lead over the mighty Lakers.
In case you have not heard it 100 times already, no NBA team has ever come back from being down this kind of deficit. The Lakers are certainly a team capable of putting together four straight wins, but the Mavericks are playing to well right now, and they have a chance to close this thing out at home.
I find it hard to believe the Lakers will not win at least one game in this series, as I said on my radio show on Friday, but I also said that the Mavs would take game three. I think the Mavericks are playing some of the best complimentary basketball in the league, and Jason Kidd proved that last night when he went back to the junior high days and told Jason Terry that he was going to box out Pau Gasol who was shooting free throws. Gasol was trying to miss on purpose so the Lakers could keep the game alive, but Kidd stepped right in front of Gasol, stole the ball away, and nailed the coffin with two free throws.
The Mavs are playing really well right now, and the Lakers’ age and depth is really catching up to them. You tend to ignore those kinds of things on a team led by Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson, but it’s extremely relevant right now. They look slow, and even though the Mavs aren’t exactly a youthful team like the Grizzlies or Thunder, they are clearly a more athletic squad than the Lakers, and are most certainly deeper off the bench.
In Atlanta, the Chicago Bulls came into Phillips Arena and made the Hawks’ game one victory look like a complete fluke, and perhaps it was.
In game one, the Hawks were shooting lights out, especially from three point range. Joe Johnson couldn’t miss, Jeff Teague couldn’t miss, and Jamal Crawford was hitting big shots. Teague has continued to play very well offensively, but Johnson and Crawford have been a huge disappointment for Atlanta.
Derrick Rose had 44 points last night for the Bulls, and showed the entire nation of NBA fans why he was named the MVP. Rose had a bounce back in his step that he has not had since before he injured his ankle, and man did he explode on Friday night.
If the Hawks went under a screen for Rose, he would knock down a long range jumper or a three. If they took him over, he would simply burn anyone that tried to guard him and made some of the most acrobatic plays of this season in the paint.
Rose and the Bulls were again white hot from three point range. Deng, Bogans, and Korver combined for six of the Bulls’ 10 three pointers, and Rose hit four of his own. When Rose is hitting outside shots, the Bulls are nearly impossible to beat, but perhaps even more interesting is the story of shooting guard Keith Bogans.
If you have not heard this before, it is absolutely wild. When Bogans does not have six points, the Bulls have lost 20 total games this season including the playoffs. They have lost 22 overall. Is Bogans the X-factor for this Bulls offense? Perhaps not, but whenever he is hitting threes, it seems the Bulls are more likely to win, whether it’s by crazy coincidence or not.
Just as I had predicted, Carlos Boozer saw a significant decrease in minutes on Friday night, and for good reason. Boozer was better from the field, shooting 3-of-6 for 6 points, but he also again had three turnovers, which is unacceptable.
What can the Bulls do to off-set this slump by Boozer? Plop him right on the bench. Taj Gibson is a very, very gifted power forward option for the Bulls, and he received 26 minutes on Friday night, and by no coincidence whatsoever, Gibson finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds, seven off the glass.
I fully expect the Bulls to continue giving Gibson significant minutes until Boozer can prove he can take care of the basketball and be more efficient offensively.
The Bulls were able to take a 2-1 series lead and turn home court advantage back in their favor, which should be no surprise. The Bulls have the 5th best record in the NBA on the road, and while they are a young team, their superb defense keeps them in every game, regardless of the score. You can never count the Bulls out of a game, and do not count them out of a series. Three of their last four games they have really looked like the team that won 62 games, which is scary good for them.
These two series will resume on Sunday, as the Bulls look to take a 3-1 lead while the Hawks look to even the score before heading to Chicago. The Mavericks want to put the last nail in the coffin for the Lakers and get the sweep, while Los Angeles is just happy to still be alive at this point.