Lakers have fallen short all season

DALLAS -- This is the first time in Phil Jackson's sparkling coaching career that his team has fallen down three games to none in a playoff series, but the Los Angeles Lakers' 98-92 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Friday certainly felt like déjà vu.

The Lakers' late-game collapse in Game 3, which the Mavs ended on a 20-7 run in the final 5:07 of the fourth, mirrored a season full of tasks not seen to completion by the back-to-back defending champs.

They were terrible on offense, going 3-for-10 with two turnovers in those last five minutes.

"Just our execution toward the end of the game, like reading who has the advantage, where to get them the ball," Lamar Odom said. "Sometimes it's just hard for me to understand how we find ourselves in a game like that and we don't know how to use each other's strengths. We've been through it so many times, but we're so stubborn with each other and it caught up to us."

One man who had the advantage all night long, Andrew Bynum, didn't get so much as an attempt down the stretch, his offensive line frozen at a team-high 21 points on 9-for-16 shooting from the 10:04 mark until the final buzzer.

The Lakers were anemic on defense, letting the Mavericks go off for 32 points in the fourth, including a 5-for-8 mark from downtown after they had held Dallas to 37 points and 3-for-17 from deep in the second and third quarters combined.

"Down the stretch of the game we just made some of the dumbest defensive mistakes I've seen us make all year," Kobe Bryant said.

Not only did the nature of the loss resemble the result of Game 1, when L.A. couldn't hold onto a five-point lead in the final 3½ minutes of the game, but it's something we've seen again and again when the team had goals in mind this season.

It started back in training camp, when they flew over to Europe to be a showcase for the league and came away with two losses in two games -- one to the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves in London and another to F.C. Barcelona in Pau Gasol's homecoming, as Pete Mickeal, who couldn't sniff NBA action coming out of college, outscored Bryant 26-15, and Gasol went just 7-for-21 in front of his countrymen.

It continued on Christmas Day when Grinch-colored sneakers marked the occasion of the team's second annual letdown to a LeBron James team, another goal set with the best intentions and not met with the proper execution.

Then there were the losing streaks of four straight from late November through early December, three in late December, three in mid-February and five in April. They had only one three-game losing streak through the first 217 games they played once acquiring Gasol.

They're on another three-game losing streak now.

Even the winning streaks this year didn't match up to Jackson's goal of running a couple into double digits; their most successful strings ended at 8-0, 9-0 and 8-0.

They wanted to catch San Antonio for No. 1 in the West -- nope. Then it was staying on pace with Chicago and Miami for the No. 2 best record overall -- fail. Sixty wins? Didn't get there. Beat their 2009-10 record of 57 wins? They only managed to tie it.

Shannon Brown was asked about the team dubbing Friday's game a "must-win" then failing to deliver on its aspiration once again.
"Do you feel like it's a broken record?" the reporter said.

"It is," Brown said. "But it's going to stay broken until we fix it."

And the situation they're trying to fix, a 3-0 series deficit, hasn't been conquered by the 98 previous teams in NBA history that tried to win four straight to climb out of that hole.

Hate to go all Aristotle on a team that already has enough Zen principles floating around in its head, but as the Greek philosopher said, "We are what we repeatedly do."

What the Lakers have done time and time again is fall short of their smaller goals.

It's no surprise that their biggest wish -- a three-peat title -- is being lost as well.

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.