Not much in the way of nuance, gray area or degrees. Plain and simple, this was an inexcusable performance by the two-time defending champions.
An actual game breakdown strikes me as an exercise in pointlessness. The game was far too lopsided in Dallas' favor.
A critical mind isn't needed to explain why the continuation of terrible accuracy from behind the arc (this time, 5-for-24) handcuffed the Lakers.
Or the damage created by allowing Dallas enough uncontested looks to connect at a mind-boggling rate of 62.5 percent (20 3's in all, nine of which belonged to Jason Terry in a record-tying playoff performance).
Or the overall performance on either side of the ball (60.3 percent shooting for Dallas versus 37.8 themselves).
Or Pau Gasol failing to go out in a late blaze of a glory.
Or the way Kobe Bryant's approach to start the game -- eight shots in the first quarter versus his team's collective 11 -- was doomed to fail because it often does fail (even if it's somewhat understandable why Bryant felt the need to put it all on his shoulders, and the loss hardly falls on his shoulders).
Or the last piece of glaring evidence of Phil Jackson's failure to prepare his team for this postseason.
For me, what stands out the most from this loss was the lack of pride, composure and class. By and large, what we witnessed represented exceptionally little, and that's the worst part of what was ultimately a sweep by Dallas.
Forget whatever professionalism and poise these players owe Jerry Buss (as the man who pays their generous salaries) or Lakers fans (who put forth their hard-earned dollars and loyalty). Forget even what these players owe themselves as means of closure for an honorable run of three straight Finals appearances and two straight titles, even in the face of a nightmare finish. It's about what these players owed the Lakers as a franchise. Corny as it may sound, the Lakers are a sports institution, one of the proudest and greatest in terms of history and achievement. This is a franchise owed a better and more dignified exit, win or lose, and it's ultimately a pity how this element was denied.
Yeah, the energy (if not necessarily the effectiveness) and hustle was better in the third quarter, creating a few mini-pushes in the process. But this was a case of way too little and far too late. Once the Lakers fell behind, which happened fairly early, this game was over before it even started. It's one thing not to believe deep down in the ability to overcome an 0-3 series hole. All the sunshine and lollipops in the world can't create that much optimism among a crew of reasonably grounded people. But it's another to come this frazzled at the prospect of self-preservation, of your ability to at least put up a fair fight. The Lakers appeared to want no part of leaving it all on the floor once the chips were down, a reaction I never thought I'd see from a group once dripping with well-earned swagger.
And the only thing worse than going out with your tail between your legs is going out like a punk.
In many ways, the Lakers' ineptitude was embodied by the fourth-quarter ejections of Lamar Odom (who threw a forearm at the head of Dirk Nowitzki on the heels of a minor skirmish with J.J. Barea) and Andrew Bynum (who threw an elbow into Barea's ribs without even making the slightest basketball move). It's the second time Bynum pulled such a move this season alone, and the third time in all, counting the 2009 incident with Gerald Wallace. In each case, he risked injuring another player with reckless and callous abandon. (After his two-game suspension for the same offense against Michael Beasley, I was skeptical Bynum had learned a lesson.) Drew then exited the court with his shirt off as if celebrating his cowardice against a player more than a foot shorter and 110 pounds lighter, and it all adds up to what likely will and definitely should be a healthy punishment from the league.
In both cases, nothing was accomplished except individual and team-wide embarrassment. Kind of like Game 4 itself for the Lakers.