The Dallas Mavericks have the Los Angeles Lakers right where they want them, a place that no one expected the defending champs to be: facing a sweep.

All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki pumped in a game-high 32 points and the Mavericks put the Lakers one game away from an early summer vacation with a 98-92 victory in game three on May 6 to take a commanding 3-0 series lead in their second-round matchup.

Five Lakers scored in double figures, but it wasn’t enough to stop a 32-point outburst by the Mavs in the final quarter, which erased an eight-point Lakers lead.

“We’re disappointed,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson told reporters. “We feel like Games One and Three 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.”

No team in NBA history has come back to win a series after being down 3-0, but hope is the only thing the Lakers have to hold onto at this point.

“I might be sick in the head or crazy because I think we’re still going to win the series,” Lakers star guard Kobe Bryant said. “Win on Sunday, go back home and see if they can win in L.A.”

Bryant scored 17 points but didn’t touch the ball down the stretch as the Lakers went to forward Lamar Odom on their last three possessions. Trailing 95-91 with 18.7 seconds left, Odom turned the ball over near the baseline to preserve the Dallas victory and put Los Angeles in a bad position. Teams trailing 3-0 in a best-of-seven series are 0-98 in NBA history.

Game four is scheduled for Sunday, May 8 at American Airlines Center in Dallas. With a chance to put the reeling Lakers away, Dallas is determined to take advantage of their opportunity.

“We got to go for it,” Nowitzki said. “We’re not good enough to coast or relax or anything. We got to go for it on Sunday with the same crowd, the same hype. I’ve seen a lot in this league already so I don’t want to be the first one .”

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO