The Los Angeles Lakers aren't dead yet. Instead, they're like the hero Westley in that classic film "The Princess Bride" — they're only "mostly dead."
But the two-time defending NBA champion Lakers are barely breathing in this year's playoffs, staring at a discouraging 0-3 deficit in their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series against the Dallas Mavericks.
No, the Lakers aren't "all dead," as Miracle Max (played hilariously by Billy Crystal) would say in that previously mentioned movie, which I watched many times with my children when they were growing up. (And I'm pretty sure I enjoyed it as much, if not more, than they did).
But the Lakers, the NBA's most despised franchise for most Jazz fans, are definitely hanging by a slender thread on life support. And at this point, a third straight NBA championship seems awfully dang doubtful, if not downright impossible.
Dallas, long considered an underachieving team perhaps best known for blowing a 2-0 lead in the 2006 NBA Finals, rallied down the stretch to win Game 3 on Friday night. The Mavericks get a chance to go for the unexpected series sweep if they can deliver the knockout blow today in Game 4 on the Mavs' court.
No team in NBA history has ever rallied from an 0-3 deficit to win a seven-game series. Sure, it's happened once in Major League Baseball, when the Red Sox stunned the rival Yankees, and a few times in the National Hockey League, but never before in pro basketball's best league.
Ninety-eight times before, NBA teams have trailed 0-3 in a playoff series, and their record up until now is a perfect 0-98. And if the Lakers soon make it 0-99, they have nobody to blame but themselves.
After surprisingly losing the first two games of this series at home, they held a seven-point lead with 5:05 to go in Game 3. Hey, if they win this one, they're right back in it.
But the Mavericks made a marvelous comeback, as Dirk Nowitzki, Peja Stojakovic and Jason Terry came up with big plays in the closing minutes and the Lakers committed a couple of critical mistakes.
For those Jazz fans who have been holding a grudge against Derek Fisher ever since he dumped Utah in favor of returning to L.A. — where he's since won two more championship rings — I hope you were watching the final few minutes of Friday night's game.
With the Lakers trailing by two points, Fisher committed a costly and unnecessary foul on Terry, who was 25 feet from the basket at the time. Terry's two free throws made it a two-possession game. Then with 18.7 seconds left and the Lakers trailing by four points, Fisher launched an inbounds pass which was out of reach of teammate Lamar Odom, resulting in a critical turnover which essentially sealed the deal for Dallas.
And with it, this crushing loss might be the one that prevents Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who's ready to retire, from claiming the fourth championship three-peat of his glory-filled coaching career.
"We're disappointed," Jackson, whose teams have never trailed 3-0 and have never been swept in a series, either, in his 20 seasons as an NBA coach, said in an Associated Press story. "We feel like Games 1 and 3 we controlled the pace of the games. They were better at finishing the games than we were. "But we still believe we're going to win the next game and we'll go from there."
Lakers star Kobe Bryant, never one to back down from a challenge, took it a step further.
"I don't know, I might be sick in the head or crazy or thrown off or something like that because I still think we're going to win this series," he told reporters after Friday's loss. "I might be nuts. ... Let's win on Sunday, go back home and see if they can win in L.A."
Here's hoping that Kobe is indeed sick in the head or crazy or thrown off or nuts and that the Lakers lose today, or at least lose one more game in this series.
Then, they'll no longer be mostly dead. They'll be all dead, finally, and not even Miracle Max will be able to save 'em.
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