DALLAS, Texas, May 6 – The Los Angeles Lakers, on the ropes in their bid for a third straight NBA title, won't have forward Ron Artest for game three of their Western Conference series against Dallas.
Artest was suspended for Friday’s game after flinging a forearm to the face of Mavericks guard J.J. Barea with 24 seconds to play in Wednesday’s game in Los Angeles.
Artest was ejected from the contest and the NBA said Thursday he would also be assessed a flagrant foul.
An accumulation of flagrant foul points could lead to an additional suspension.
It’s another blow for a Lakers team suddenly flailing.
The Mavericks beat the Lakers twice in Los Angeles to seize a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven second-round series and host games three and four on Friday and Sunday.
Even Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki admitted it wasn’t what most expected to see.
"If you would have told me before that were going to win both games, that would have been hard to believe," Nowitzki said. "But I think we earned it."
Nowitzki stressed that the Mavericks can’t take anything for granted.
"This series is far from over," he said. "I’ve been around a long time. I’ve been up 2-0 before and ended up losing the series. I’ve been down 2-0, lost both home games … and came back and won in game seven … We have to stay focused, stay together."
And the Lakers need to get together after two erratic performances that had big man Andrew Bynum speaking darkly of "trust issues" in the team.
"It’s obvious that we have trust issues, individually," Bynum said. "All 13 of our guys have trust issues right now. I think it’s quite obvious to anyone watching the game — hesitation on passes, and defensively we’re not being a good teammate because he wasn’t there for you before — little things. And unless we come out and discuss them, nothing is going to change."
Bryant interpreted Bynum’s remarks as concern about the Lakers’ communication — or lack thereof — on defense.
"I think the trust that he’s referring to is being able to help each other on the defensive end of the floor," Bryant said. "You saw a lot of layups. He gets frustrated when he supports a guard coming off the screen-and-roll and nobody supports him."
Three NBA teams have rallied to win a seven-game series after dropping the first two games at home.
No team has come back to win a series after falling in an 0-3 hole, a fact that turns up the pressure on the Lakers on Friday.
"We don’t like being in this position," said Lakers point guard Derek Fisher. "It’s not familiar. But we are where we are, so we have to make sure we stay together as a group and figure this thing out. We’re trying to make history here, and that’s not easy. We have to be willing to be accountable, all of us."