First there was disbelief. Then came the anger.
Neither emotion had appeared much at Staples Center in recent years, but they each made up for lost time Wednesday, as boos followed Pau Gasol around the court and the Lakers dipped stunningly close to an early playoff flameout.
Lakers fans turned their backs on their team with two minutes to play, heading for the exits for possibly the last time at home in the Phil Jackson era.
Those who stayed until the bitter end looked up at the scoreboard, took in the Lakers' 93-81 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, and donated more boos.
The Mavericks lead the Western Conference semifinals, 2-0, and they're headed home for Games 3 and 4.
The Lakers lost the first two games of a playoff series 19 times since moving to Los Angeles and came back to win the series only once, in the 1969 West semifinals against Golden State.
Somewhere, Mark Cuban is smiling. Actually, he was behind the Mavericks' bench, smiling.
Where to begin? With Gasol, for sure.
He continued his wilted postseason with 13 points and 10 rebounds, making five of 12 shots and three of six from the free-throw line.
The third quarter marked a new low for him. Lakers fans let him have it.
DeShawn Stevenson blocked his shot from behind, and then Gasol missed badly on a mid-range jumper, leading to a host of boos after the ball caromed awkwardly off the rim.
He was two of eight at the time, scoring only six points. He was booed again after missing a free throw early in the fourth quarter.
Was this the guy who had 19 points and 18 rebounds in Game 7 of the NBA Finals against Boston? The one who reinvigorated a franchise after being acquired from Memphis? The player who was the 1B to Bryant's 1A on two championship runs?
Yes, yes and yes.
Jackson said there were "weird things" and "gremlins" in Gasol's game.
"It's tough out there," he said. "Missed open shots. Missed a layup that was blocked at the rim because he didn't dunk. There's some things that obviously didn't look good out there for Pau. He was one of the kids that looked tired out there."
With Gasol a non-factor, the Lakers had few options beyond Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum. Bryant had 23 points on nine-for-20 shooting. Bynum had 18 points and 13 rebounds.
Bynum apparently wanted the ball more often, referring to "trust issues." He made eight of 11 shots.
"We have to come out and discuss them or things won't change," Bynum said.
The Lakers were lousy from three-point range, missing their first 13 attempts and making only two of 20.
Steve Blake was 0 for 5, all on three-pointers. Lamar Odom was three for 12 from the court, Derek Fisher two for seven.
The Lakers couldn't even lament a lost 16-point lead. Their biggest edge in Game 2 was only four points.
"I plan on flogging them [Thursday]," Jackson said.
The only memorable part of the night for Ron Artest was getting booted after picking up his second technical foul with 24.4 seconds left. In a play that will be carefully reviewed by the NBA office, Artest smacked Jose Barea across the face as the diminutive guard moved upcourt with the ball.
Jackson acknowledged there was a "good chance" Artest would be suspended by the league.
Meanwhile, Dirk Nowitzki continued to drill holes in the Lakers, scoring 24 points on nine-for-16 shooting.
"Dirk's one of the hardest guys to guard in the history of basketball," Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle said. "He's our horse."
Jackson has been chronologically working his way through his championship ring collection, wearing a different one each game. On Wednesday, he slipped on the one from 2000, his first title with the Lakers.
At this rate, he might not even get past the 2002 ring. Unsettling times for the Lakers, indeed.
BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX
DAL CATEGORY LA
30 BENCH 12
36 IN PAINT 42
16 MID-RANGE 22
24 3-POINTERS 6
17 FREE THROWS 11
5 FASTBREAK 12