The Lakers didn’t just lose yesterday. They were humiliated. The Dallas Mavericks completed the sweep of the defending champions in impressive fashion, sending the 2011 Lakers into oblivion with a barrage of three pointers that set several NBA records.
After losing the first three games of the series it’s no surprise that the Lakers failed to show up for Game 4. Many teams down 0-3 mail in the last game as nothing more than a formality before slinking into the off-season embarrassed and ashamed. While the Lakers performance on the court was certainly hard to watch, it wasn’t necessarily a big surprise.
What was a surprise for the Lakers and their fans was the amount of unprofessional behavior that they exerted as time was running out. Late in the fourth quarter with the final minutes of the season counting down, Lamar Odom threw an elbow towards the chest of Dirk Nowitzki. It was clearly a frustration foul, and further replay showed it wasn’t the most malicious hit you’ll see.
However, since the game was out of hand and the referees didn’t want an agitated Lakers squad to vent their frustrations in a physical manner, they ejected Odom, promptly ending his season. In a game that may have been close or still undecided, an ejection may not have been the referee’s decision. But, in this particular situation it was the correct call by the officials.
With Odom headed to the locker room the embarrassment grew for Los Angeles. Dallas continued to build their lead thanks to a record-setting shooting performance, and ultimately the frustration boiled over for Andrew Bynum.
As Mavericks’ guard J.J. Barea charged the basket he was promptly checked by Bynum’s right elbow and forearm, sending him barreling to the ground. Bynum was immediately ejected, and after several minutes Barea was able to get up and make his free throws.
The Lakers have long been the class of the NBA. They’re a franchise that has won more games than any other, and is the most consistently dominant team in league history. The Lakers are supposed to be a shining example to the rest of the league, and instead they looked like punks who can’t lose with humility. The Mavericks outplayed and outclassed the Lakers throughout the series, and the end was a microcosm of it all.
There is no question that Andrew Bynum will be suspended for the first two games of next season, and deservedly so. When that season starts and what team Bynum will be playing for is still up in the air thanks to a potential lockout and Bynum trade rumors. But if that was his final act as a Laker, it was a deplorable one. Bynum quit on his team and his coaches, and embarrassed the entire Lakers organization. While obviously frustrated, Bynum is still a professional, and should feel ashamed for acting like an upset child.
While things unraveled quickly for the Lakers, there is no excuse for what happened at the end of Game 4. Even though Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson condemned Bynum’s actions after the game, the organization was already embarrassed. The despicable actions of Bynum and Odom slammed the door on the championship era that the team experienced under Phil Jackson. It began an era of uncertainty and confusion, and it could be a long time before the franchise reaches the top of the mountain again.
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