The Los Angeles Lakers head into tonight’s game against the Dallas Mavericks in unfamiliar waters, being down 0-2. The atmosphere in Dallas is going to be extreme. The Mavericks are not that fond of the Lakers, so beating the Lakers in Los Angeles in two straight games only adds fuel to the fire for Mavericks fans.
Despite reports from some in the basketball community, it isn’t over. I previously stated that Game 2 would represent how the Lakers would respond to Game 1’s loss and lack of play from particular players. Although Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol slightly stepped up their performance in Game 2, the Lakers were once again physically outplayed and mentally beaten by the Dallas bench. This cannot happen again in Game 3.
The bench for any NBA team has a purpose of providing a spark on the court while the starters take time to rest and rejuvenate. The bench can change the all-important momentum that can make the entire difference in the game. Game 1 saw Jason Terry lead Dallas’ bench to victory. Game 2 was stolen by Dallas’ J.J. Barea. Game 3’s bench winner needs to be headlined by the Lakers, in particular Shannon Brown. Shannon Brown may be a starter tonight with Ron Artest’s suspension, but he still represents the Killer B’s and their influence to the bench’s performance.
Shannon Brown began the 2010-2011 regular season on fire. His consistency, flare, and pure athleticism made an imprint on the Lakers’ performance. Brown seemed more than able to fill the majority of the huge void on the court when he replaces Kobe Bryant. His pull-up shot seemed have improved over the summer and he seemed to have at least one highlight dunk each game. As the season rolled on, Brown performance became erratic and inconsistent. His shot began to fade, he spent more time around the perimeter rather than driving in the lane, and the number of his turnovers increased.
In the playoffs thus far, Brown has continued to struggle, which represents the overall sentiment of the bench. Tonight is the night for the bench to get out of that funk. Tonight is not only a must-win for the Lakers in their run for the Finals, it is a must-win for the morale of the Lakers bench. The entire team must contribute on both ends of the court. Defense is crucial tonight, primarily against the Maverick’s bench. Tonight, Steve Blake must stay of J.J. Barea like glue.
The absence of Artest is another blow to the Lakers and his defense, attitude, and intensity will be absolutely missed, but it may be a blessing in disguise. The Lakers have that ability to step up and win when their backs are against the wall. This also frustrates a lot of Laker fans, including me, who wish they would play with the “on switch” every game. The Lakers and their bench specifically need to play the entire 48 minutes tonight will the utmost urgency. There is no time for mediocrity or going with the flow of the game. There is no time to mistrust teammates or to play the blame game.
The Lakers must take charge and demand the Mavericks to play their game. The Lakers will always have a chance as long as they have Kobe Bryant. Finally, the Lakers’ starters have proven that they know how to respond to must-win situations. However, the same cannot be said about the Lakers bench, especially Shannon Brown. The Killer B’s must play to their strengths of speed, defense, and quick offense. Simply put, the Killer B’s need to kill tonight.
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