Mavericks guard Jason Terry grabs irritated forward Dirk Nowitzki after… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Reporting from Dallas
This certainly isn't the history the Lakers envisioned.
Instead of a three-peat, they're in a freefall, 48 minutes from elimination only nine games into the playoffs.
Their normally mild-mannered coach is yelling at his players, who aren't afraid to shout back, just the beginning of the fireworks display the Lakers have become.
Their latest gaffe was a 98-92 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals Friday at American Airlines Center.
Their season could end Sunday in Dallas. A victory might only prolong the inevitable: No NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series.
The Lakers haven't been swept in a series since 1999 against San Antonio.
The Lakers were leading late in the fourth quarter, apparently on their way to making it a series after two losses at home, but Dallas went on a 20-7 run to end the game and put a severe crimp in parade plans.
"We just made some of the dumbest defensive mistakes I've seen us make all year," said Kobe Bryant, who didn't sense a calamity on his hands. "I might be sick in the head or crazy or thrown off or something like that because I still think we're going to win this series. But I might be nuts."
Bryant had only 17 points and six assists, meaning the Lakers' best player was Andrew Bynum, who had 21 points and 10 rebounds.
It didn't compare to what Dirk Nowitzki did, scoring 32 points and making 12 of 19 shots, four of five from three-point range. He also had nine rebounds and did the opposite of bragging.
"You don't ever want to give a champion life," he said, mindful that the series wasn't over yet.
It might as well be, though. The Lakers have tried just about everything.
On Friday, they had one of their longest shoot-arounds in years, one team official thinking it was their most in-depth session since the 2008 Finals against Boston.
That ended badly. This could be worse, if that's possible, especially if Pau Gasol doesn't awaken from his postseason stupor.
He had 12 points and eight rebounds Friday. He made five of 13 shots.
The Mavericks made 12 three-pointers to three for the Lakers.
Jackson was all smiles between Games 2 and 3, trying to maintain a humorous demeanor, but he was seething during a first-quarter timeout.
He jabbed Gasol in the chest and yelled at Bynum, using some choice words. It was a rare show of anger for Jackson, but he was tired of Gasol getting the ball poked away in the post.
Then Jackson hollered at Bynum again after Jose Barea scored on an easy layup to bring the Mavericks within six with 6:49 to play. Bynum didn't look too happy, shouting back at Jackson, but he wasn't the only one to face Jackson's wrath. A few seconds later, Jackson leaned into Gasol and barked at him too.
Jackson even jumped on one of his favorites, Derek Fisher, after the veteran muffed a double-team on Nowitzki late in the game.
After the game, Jackson tried to sound resolute.
"We feel like Game 1 and 3 we controlled the pace of the game and couldn't finish," he said. "But we still believe we're going to win the next game and we'll go from there."
They'll have Ron Artest back from a one-game suspension, whatever that will mean.
The Lakers led after the third quarter Friday, 72-66, plundering the Mavericks in points in the paint, 48-16.
They steadily lost the lead, although Lamar Odom's turnaround made it 91-91 with 1:39 to play.
Nowitzki then scored left-handed against Gasol, Odom was short on a bank, and Jason Terry made a pair of free throws with 18.7 seconds left.
After a timeout, Odom couldn't get to Fisher's inbounds pass from the side, the ball sailing out of bounds. Jackson then yelled at Odom.
That kind of a night for the Lakers. That kind of a season. It might all be over soon.