Only a few stragglers remained in the Dallas Mavericks' locker room when Dirk Nowitzki took a seat in front of his locker.
Wearing a T-shirt and a towel wrapped around his waist, the power forward pulled on a pair of compression leggings before uttering three words that couldn't have been more unexpected.
"I love L.A," Nowitzki said wearily.
It was a sarcastic reference to the Randy Newman song played before every Lakers home game, an anthem the Mavericks would probably like to avoid hearing again until next season.
Dallas' 112-108 overtime loss to the Lakers at Staples Center on Sunday represented its fourth defeat of the season against the team it swept out of the Western Conference semifinals only a year ago.
The Mavericks lost the four games in nearly every conceivable fashion. There were closely contested games and a blowout. Dallas had trouble stopping Lakers new (Ramon Sessions) and old (Derek Fisher), and even the absence of star guard Kobe Bryant on Sunday didn't seem to make a difference.
If Dallas played the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs, which seems probable given where the teams are in the standings, how confident would the Mavericks be in their chances?
"It's the first team to four," guard Jason Kidd said, "so you throw out the regular season record and you try to find a way to get a win on the road."
The Mavericks had a few chances Sunday, with Nowitzki missing a fadeaway jumper at the end of regulation that could have won the game and guard Jason Terry botching a layup with five seconds left in overtime that could have tied the score.
Terry said he was distracted by Matt Barnes, thinking the Lakers small forward would either step in front of him to take a charge or try to deliver a hard foul. When Barnes instead moved out of his way, Terry simply missed what looked like an easy shot.
"I'll take the blame for that," Terry said. "To not be able to deliver for my team is a disappointment."
Nowitzki also had a poor shooting game, making only nine of 28 shots as the Mavericks lost what had been a 10-point lead in the second quarter. Nowitzki's misses included a couple of airballs.
"Nine for 28 is not a Dirk Nowitzki night," Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle said.
More troubling for the Mavericks was their inability to match the Lakers' rebounding prowess. The Lakers held a 52-42 rebounding advantage that included a 15-6 edge on the offensive end.
And it wasn't an aberration. In their previous meeting, the Lakers outrebounded Dallas, 46-29.
Mavericks forward Shawn Marion pointed to two reasons for the Lakers' interior dominance: 7-footers Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
"Look at how big" Bynum and Gasol are, Marion said. "They're a handful. It ain't easy trying to keep them off the [boards]. And then while you're battling with them, other guys sneak in and get the loose ones. They're a handful. They make you work."
Lakers small forward Metta World Peace certainly gave Delonte West a runaround of sorts, helping to limit the quick guard to four points in the second half after West had torched the Lakers for 16 points in the game's first two quarters.
The Lakers gave the defending NBA champions plenty to ponder when it comes to potential playoff matchups.
"If you look at the West, who do you want to face?" Nowitzki asked. "There's no easy matchups. Who wants to see Memphis as a No. 4 or 5 seed? They're a big, physical team. There's a lot of dangerous teams out there."
And if they draw the Lakers?
"Huge playoff series if that happens," Terry said. "I can't foresee the future, but if it does, it's going to be a great matchup for us."