DALLAS (AP) – So this is how it could end for Phil Jackson, the guy who turned Michael Jordan into a champion, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal into champions, and Bryant into a winner without O’Neal.

Final Game For Phil?? NBA Still Hits Him With Fine

To the Dallas Mavericks, no less, a team with a postseason reputation that is, well, pretty much the opposite of what folks associate with Jackson, Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The two-time defending champions trail Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs 3-0 going into Game 4 of their second-round series on Sunday. Dallas hasn’t dominated the series, but has been the better team in every fourth quarter, wiping out deficits in Games 1 and 3.

Bryant considers the final minutes his time to shine, yet he hasn’t done it this series, missing a potential winner in the opener and missing 4 of 6 down the stretch on Friday night. Pau Gasol has been so bad the entire postseason that Jackson finally snapped during the last game, uncharacteristically berating his big man on the sideline.

There’s no reason to hold back now, not with time running out on Jackson’s career and on Los Angeles’ reign. At this point, it seems more like a question of when, not if, as all 98 NBA teams to go down 0-3 have eventually been eliminated; 59 were swept.

“I told them not to think about that,” Jackson said Saturday. “You’re thinking about winning tomorrow’s game, forcing another game in L.A. on Tuesday.”

His five kids, however, aren’t taking any chances.

“They think they have to hustle in just in case this is the last game that I coach,” Jackson said. “That’s a drag that I don’t need to have happen, but they’re coming anyway because they’re insisting upon it.”

Jackson is too into the Zen approach of living in the moment to be distracted by sentiment, or to think about how humiliating a sweep might be. Then again, he wouldn’t know. The winner of an unprecedented 11 titles, he’s lost only nine series in his previous 20 postseasons. He’s never even been down 0-3.

Bryant has been swept from the playoffs twice in his career, but it hasn’t happened since 1999, the year before Jackson took over. Bryant enthusiastically said after Game 3 that he believed his team was tough enough to still win the series.

At the start of practice Saturday, he already had his game face on. He said Jackson’s possible farewell and the chance of being swept are not on his mind, and that teammates “don’t have a choice” but to believe they can still win the series. He said the Mavericks aren’t doing anything to stop him, he’s “just not getting (the ball) where I should be.”

Bryant also said Gasol is playing OK, just “not playing at the high level that we’re accustomed to seeing him playing.” The numbers bear it out. Gasol’s average of 13.4 points is easily the worst of his playoff career and his 7.8 rebounds are the worst of his four postseasons with the Lakers.

Jackson said Gasol is getting shoved out of the paint by a knee-to-the-rear tactic that’s supposed to be against the rules. He said the Hornets got away with it in the first round, so the Mavs have done it, too.

But there’s more to Gasol’s struggles. He’s missing shots he normally makes and is taking some bad ones. Nowitzki has outplayed him on both ends of the court – again. The German is 7-0 against the Spaniard in postseason matchups.

During a timeout following a Nowitzki 3-pointer on Friday night, Jackson smacked Gasol in the chest and got in his face. Jackson said he does it about once a year, and Gasol said “it wasn’t shocking to me or anything.”

“I just wanted to see what point he was trying to make,” Gasol said.

The Lakers will have small forward Ron Artest back in the lineup for Game 4. He was suspended from the last game, which meant a new rotation and added minutes for Gasol and fill-in starter Lamar Odom. Jackson said he wants to try giving all of his key players more rest early in the game so they will be fresher at the end.

As for the Mavericks, they have all sorts of incentive to close out the series Sunday.

Avoiding a return trip to Los Angeles would mean more rest for Nowitzki, 38-year-old Jason Kidd and the rest of the 30-something guys who make up most of Dallas’ rotation. It also would remove any talk of a collapse.

If any team could claw back from 0-3, Jackson, Bryant and the three-peat-seeking Lakers might fit the prototype. And the Mavericks have a history of finding ways to lose in the playoffs.

Dallas blew a 2-0 lead in the 2006 NBA finals, and came as close as anyone to blowing a 3-0 lead, needing seven games to get past Portland in 2003. Earlier this postseason, the Mavs let a 23-point lead slip away over the final 14 minutes against those same Trail Blazers.

They haven’t lost since, winning five straight. They’ve played tight defense (blowing apart another of their stereotypes), Nowitzki has been terrific and he’s had a different teammate or two step up each game. On Friday night, it was Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic.

“We’ve got to stay on task and be resourceful and opportunistic,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said.

Copyright 2011 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

Comments (22)
  1. neetin KARIYA says:

    if other players support kobe they can bring them to la and win
    if kobe power can win without shaq then he can do any thing and ihis power faith and experiance can do beyond
    good luck come back wining and make jackson happy
    god bless

    1. Abe says:

      Basketball is a fun game. Let every team share the fun and win the champion evenly.

      I always hope any team won the less should win. .

    2. JR says:

      someone has to tell paul gasol that he has to play THE WAY HE PLAYED WITH SPAIN and play that way in the playoffs

    3. Saber 1 says:

      HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. Starting to show how much they care about you loser Lakers fans. Almost time to hit the showers, and then home for the rest of the season. They gave up on all of you, they knew they couldn’t win against Dallas. Lakers blow and so do their fans.

    4. Saber 1 says:

      Starting to foul pretty hard, it goes to show what kind of people they are. If were not winning, we will hurt your players and try to keep them out of the game so they loose in the next level of playoffs. I wish some one would on the East coast would buy the Lakers and then disband the team. SORE LOSERS. All the ILLEGAL ALIENS, mudflaps and the rest of the losers who follow these guys will find a way to put a spin on it. DALLAS WON.

  2. Hank says:

    Lakers just don’t deserve to win looking at the way their players play right now. It’s time for other NBA team to shine. It’s not the Coach, Phil Jackson.. it’s simply the players.. Lakers.. is gone for now.

  3. k5 ryder says:

    I belive tha Lakers are coming back!!! The Lakers are like our soldiers they don’t know how to loose. And loosing is NOT an option. Kobe is number one but FISHER its the secret man!!!!

  4. Oops.... says:

    Does it matter? Win or lose their savage fans will riot.

  5. Dele Ogun says:

    Lakers and their fans and particularly Phil Jackson dream a lot. Phil Jackson should have retired last year in glory after winning a game that Celtics gave away. Actually the Lakers have won championship three times because the competitor funmbled just as the Lakers did in Game one. This is different Dallas. Underestimating this team is fool hardy. Lakers will be swept and if you cannot find brooms, I have suppliies of the broom. We need to send messages to all Lakers organization that times have CHANGED and this old Lakers are going DOWN. I predict a BLOWOUT . Twenty points at the least. Go Dallas and Mack Cuban, the most friendly cool owner. I love this guy. Look how is cheering when his team is wiining.
    Mark Cuban, you do not have to worry about the Lakers.

  6. Francisco says:

    Odio los laksrs .. Viva los dallas mavericks..

  7. memememe says:

    Lakers in 7!

    1. vincent knight says:

      set your alarm,you need to wake up,you need a doctor,call lady gaga.

  8. HooDatIS? says:

    the lakers and the mavs both are old and washed up……

  9. vincent knight says:

    there just plain burnt out

  10. pablo the laker fan says:

    lakers in 5

  11. Marius DePano Evangelista says:

    Despite their bravado, if think they will be embarrassed today (Sunday) with a 30 pt loss.

  12. Marius DePano Evangelista says:

    …should say “I” think….

  13. michael chavez says:

    lakers are done they are too old and too small for the mavs

  14. Fred H says:

    I can’t believe the hypocrisy of the LA fans and media. I live in LA and I’ve been a Laker fan since 1986. There was never so much hype about pulling out of a deficit than now. 1991 vs the bulls, the media’s love affair with jordan (I remember Game 5…LA home game cheering for chicago). 1997, 1998 vs. Utah, barely a peep. Why now? Could it possibly be political? Going up against the strong GOP state of Texas (although that would rule out Utah…)? The egomaniac Cuban? Goofy Dirk? Cheatin’ Kidd? I honestly don’t know. Why do you guys care now?

  15. joke says:

    Kobe, yea right. He’s only interested in his own stats. Swept……No ‘I’ in team!

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