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Lakers 86, Mavericks 122: Feel Free To Underestimate The Heart Of A Champion

Today will be remembered as a low point in Lakers history. It's not that they failed to win another championship this year. Three-peating is a brutally challenging feat, and the back-to-back titles the Lakers captured in 2009 and 2010 were an experience fans of most teams will never get to enjoy. It really has been an amazing run, and it had to end sometime.

But it didn't have to end like this: with a second-round sweep capped off by a 36-point hammering in the final game coached by Phil Jackson. We were worried about this possibility from the moment the Lakers lost Game Two. We've talked about how when the Lakers fall apart in the playoffs, they fall apart with a vengeance. Just as they did in Game Six in Boston three years ago, today they got down early, decided they just didn't have the answers and let their opponents name the score.

Just to make completely sure no opportunity for embarrassment went unseized, a pair of Lakers got themselves ejected down the stretch. First was Lamar Odom with a shoulder check on Dirk Nowitzki. Then Andrew Bynum tried to decapitate Jose Barea when the latter was driving unimpeded to the hoop. Now that this has become a pattern of behavior on Drew's part (see, e.g., Michael Beasley and Gerald Wallace), we can fully expect him to begin next season on the suspended list. Nice work, jackass.

Big credit to the Mavericks for dropping the hammer without mercy. They were amazing in this series, never more so than today. Rick Carlisle's strategy of swinging the ball from strong side to weak until a three-point shooter opens up reached its stunning apotheosis in Game Four as Dallas buried an NBA playoff-record 20 threes. Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic almost literally couldn't miss, combining to hit 15 of 16 long balls.

Needless to say, this'll be quite the interesting offseason here in Lakerland. There are questions that need answering up and down the roster. What the hell happened to Pau Gasol? How can this team get younger and more athletic? Why can't the Lakers ever put together a decent bench? And if Derek Fisher isn't going to come through with postseason magic, what exactly is he good for?

Sorry that this is an abbreviated recap. Though other commitments compel me to keep this short, we'll have much, much more about this game and series coming up. For now, I just want to say thanks to Phil Jackson. Thanks for all the amazing things you've done for the Lakers. Today's loss, though it's a bitter one, doesn't diminish your legacy in Los Angeles or your stature in the Laker family. Thanks for coming back and giving it one last try.

Follow Dex on Twitter @dexterfishmore.

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