Lakers owner Jerry Buss made an appearance at the team's practice… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)
The first sign this wasn't an ordinary day was the presence of the Rolls-Royce in the players' parking lot.
It stuck out among all the other luxury cars because of its owner.
Jerry Buss was at the Lakers' training facility Tuesday primarily to see his daughter, team executive Jeanie Buss, though the players interpreted it as a symbolic appearance 12 hours after they foundered in another playoff series opener.
The Lakers' owner made a brief but grand appearance during practice, walking down a long stairwell that starts near the office of General Manager Mitch Kupchak and ends near the basketball court. He moved along the sideline and through an exit, never breaking stride.
He spoke privately in the parking lot to Kobe Bryant a few minutes later, hugging him and offering a smile that was returned by Bryant. Then he was off to see the hit movie "Fast 5."
It was rare for Buss to be at practice, but it happened.
In case the players are wondering, he's closely watching his investment in a $91-million payroll.
"It's always cool when you have him around," forward Lamar Odom said. "His presence is enough, but I did get to say 'What's up' to him. He shows us a lot of love just by being there."
The Lakers could use a boost.
As strange as it sounds, Buss' team faces a must-win Wednesday in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals.
The Lakers obviously won't be in good shape if they suffer another home loss to Dallas before heading there for Games 3 and 4 this weekend.
They'll need to corral Dirk Nowitzki, who plundered them for 28 points and 14 rebounds in Game 1, and also remember to feed their own big men. Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Odom combined for 28 shots Monday, one fewer than Bryant.
Will it be easy? Probably not. Dallas tied Miami for the NBA's best road record (28-13) in the regular season and did enough to mess with the Lakers' minds in a 96-94 victory Monday.
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson spoke of the need to get the ball down low more often to the big men, and he wasn't alone.
"Sometimes we make it too hard on ourselves," Gasol said. "It's really important for this team to execute and stay sharp offensively because of our big lineup….When we don't do that, we're just kicking ourselves in the butt."
If Gasol gets the ball more often, he needs to do more with it.
Through seven playoff games, he's averaging 13.7 points and 7.4 rebounds while shooting 42.9%. In last year's playoffs, he averaged 19.6 points and 11.1 rebounds while shooting 53.9%.
It's one reason Jackson had never lost consecutive series openers while coaching in the same postseason … until now.
Gasol's not entirely to blame. Jackson spoke to the team about being more patient in passing to the post. Dallas defenders are sagging off the Lakers' shooters and cluttering the lane, making it harder to pound it down low.
"We were much more interested in being direct and bold and just throw it in there and power it. We have to be much more subtle," Jackson said.
In other words, move the ball around before dropping it to the post. Don't be so fast and furious. Your owner will be watching.
Jackson expresses frustration
Jackson wasn't happy a day after Game 1.
He was irritated that he wasn't allowed to substitute reserve guard Steve Blake into the game with 20.3 seconds left.
He had inserted Bynum into the game for Odom but changed his mind and wanted Blake out there instead. The switch was not allowed by referees.
Bynum appeared to tip Jason Kidd's inbounds pass and Gasol was called for fouling Nowitzki while going for the ball.
"That was something that changed kind of the complexity of the last play," Jackson said. "I've never had that happen to me in a ball game before. I think they misplayed that one. Someone can be substituted in or out in a dead-ball situation. He doesn't have to be there for a play."
Bryant finished fourth in the voting for the NBA's MVP award, behind Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard and LeBron James. He received one first-place vote out of a total of 121. Rose received 113 first-place votes.
Bryant has won the award once (2008). He showed no animosity when asked about Rose winning it.
"I love it," he said, indicating he would have voted for Rose too.
Kevin Durant was fifth overall and Nowitzki sixth.