Like an addict insisting that he can stop any time he wants, Kobe Bryant is confident that the Los Angeles Lakers can still win this series against the Dallas Mavericks. Forget the insurmountable 0-3 grave that the two-time defending champions have dug for themselves, he says, pay no mind to the fact that 98 times teams have been where the Lakers are and have failed to advance.
Bryant knows his team will win, and he can back it up with good, sound logic.
“I might be sick in the head or crazy or thrown off or something like that, but I still think we are going to win this series,” Bryant said. “I might be nuts. Win on Sunday. Go back home and see if they can win in L.A.”
When pressed on why he was so sure of this, Bryant replied: “I don’t know. I’m just nuts.”
As reassuring as it is to see the Lakers star rambling with confidence regarding his team’s chances, it’s a little hard to take him seriously. Bryant tends to tightrope the thin line between brilliance and insanity every single time he’s forced to do a press conference after a particularly damaging loss.
Never forget, this is the man who dropped this gem after L.A.’s painful collapse in the 2008 NBA Finals:
"We just wet the bed," Kobe said. "A nice big one, too. One of the ones you can't put a towel over. It was terrible."
Bryant hates to lose, this much we know. It drives him crazy to think that another team will win games that he believes he deserves to win, or advance to conference finals he feels his team should be playing in. Unfortunately, that determination and completely-devoid-of-common-sense poise seems strangely out of place after a Game 3 that saw his team relinquish control of an outing they had by the throat all the way up to the middle of the fourth quarter.
The Lakers played as close to their best game as they have all series long, and they still lost. Just like in Game 1. At some point, you just have to acknowledge that perhaps the other team is the better team.
Else you’re just nuts.
Pau Gasol has been getting punked out by pretty much every big man that the Mavs have thrown his way. In no particular order, Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood have all toyed with the once-upon-a-time instrumental figure in L.A.’s two championship runs.
Now, Gasol’s team is getting in on the fun. The only way Andrew Bynum could make his annoyance with Gasol any more clear is if he took out a one-page ad in the Los Angeles Times. That won’t happen, of course, because nobody buys advertising in the Times anymore. But you get the point.
In Game 3, even Phil Jackson -- a man who can calm a charging buffalo just by staring into its eyes and doing that Crocodile Dundee hypnotizing thing -- got demonstrative with his big man. Poking him in the chest not once, but twice during the course of the game, the Zenmaster who is anything but Zen these days, made it a point to berate his All-Star from the first quarter all the up to the last one.
And for good reason.
Gasol came into Friday night’s game averaging just under 14 points and 8 rebounds per game – numbers that completely overstate his impact on the team in the two rounds that they’ve played. Game 3 was more of the same as the big Spaniard scored 12 points on 5-for-13 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds in 40 minutes of play -- all the while watching the man he was guarding (Nowitzki) drop 32 and nine.
After the game Pau admitted to being disappointed at his inability to be effective in the postseason this year, and cited tensions inside of him as the reason for his troubles. Unfortunately, he didn’t elaborate on what was causing those tensions or if there was any shot in hell that he could get rid of them somehow before Game 4.
I don’t know if it speaks moreso to the blind devotion that comes with fanhood, the mystique of the Lakers or complete ignorance – but the the two-time defending champs still feel like they have a chance. A small chance, but still a chance nonetheless.
With Kobe leading the way, P.J. at the helm and the sudden emergence of Bynum as a big man to be reckoned with, I can’t but feel like if any team can be the first one to make history and come back from a 0-3 hole, it’s this one. And on the other side of the equation, if any team can completely collapse and give this series back in historical fashion, it’s the Mavs.
Maybe that's why Kobe isn't ready to jump off a bridge just yet. Or, maybe we're both just nuts.