Dirk celebrates another clutch basket and another Mavs win!

98 and counting...

Let me just say that I am not a numbers guy.  Numbers are nice, but they can be easily manipulated.  But there are times when numbers do help us to understand a situation or see what took place.  The number 98 is one of those numbers.  98 was the total number of points scored by the Mavericks in their 98-92 victory in Game 3.  The win gives the Mavs a 3 games to none lead over the Los Angeles Lakers.

But 98 is an important number for another reason; 98 times a team has jumped out to a 3-0 lead in a playoff series.  And 98 times that team has won the series.  The Lakers are done.  It would take a historic, epic collapse for the Mavs to lose four straight games with half of those games at home.  I know that the Lakers still have Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Phil Jackson.  But none of them have ever been in this situation before.

This is unchartered territory for the Zen master.  And last night we saw signs that Jackson was feeling the pressure.  Perhaps, deep down, he felt the end was near.  The Lakers were playing well.  Andrew Bynum was dominating early.  The Mavs simply could not stop him.  But late in the game, they stopped looking for him.

And the Mavs took over.  Trailing late in the game, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, and Peja Stoyakovic took over, leading the Mavs on a 20-7 run in the final 5 minutes of the game.  When the pressure is on, it is the Dallas Mavericks who are rising to the occasion.  And it is the Los Angeles Lakers who are panicking, making bad passes, and taking bad shots.  There is no question that the Lakers missed Ron Artest, who was serving his one-game suspension.

Lamar Odom got the start in his place, further weakening the Laker bench.  This helped the Mavs bench continue their domination as they outscored the Lakers bench 42-15.  Ouch.  But the bench wasn’t the only factor here.

This game was also won from the lines; the free-throw line and the three-point line.  The Lakers were 3-for-13 from beyond the arc, for 23.1%.  The Mavs hit 12-for-29, 41.4%.  That is a difference of 36-to-9, a 25-point difference.  From the free throw line, the Lakers were 11-14 while the Mavs were 24-29.  That is a 13 point differential. 

The Mavs are home for Game 4 tomorrow night.  They need to win this game.  It will give veterans like Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki a chance to rest.  It will mean sweeping the Lakers in front of the home town fans, giving them the chance to celebrate with the team.  It will spare the team another trip to L.A.  It will prevent any chance of a comeback.

If that is going to happen, the Mavs better come ready to play.  There is no doubt that the Lakers are going to come out fired up.  I have a feeling Kobe Bryant is going to take matters into his own hands, getting more than the 16 shots he took in Game 3.  Jason Kidd is going to have to continue his excellence his defense on Bryant if the Mavs are going to win.  But as long as the Mavs have Dirk Nowitzki, I like their chances. 

Dirk is on a mission.  He wants a championship.  And he wants a championship now.  This team is as good as any he has been on.  They have a presence in the paint in Tyson Chandler.  They have a deep, productive bench with Jason Terry, Peja Stoyakovic, and J.J. Barea.  Now is the time.  This team has the look of a team of destiny.  Lets see if they can take the next step tomorrow night.  And we have you covered as the Smoking Cuban will be blogging live once again throughout the game.

Tags: Dallas Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki J.J. Barea Jason Kidd Jason Terry Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers Peja Stoyakovic Phil Jackons Ron Artest Tyson Chandler

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