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Bet on the NBAThe big story in the NBA on Sunday night was the shocking way in which the Phil Jackson era ended with the Lakers being swept by the Mavericks.

But while it was probably the more important game of the night, it was not the only one, as the Bulls took on the Hawks in Atlanta. The Bulls lost, and the Lakers lost, and both went down because of glaring holes in each team's playoff strategy.

The Los Angeles Lakers were swept by the Dallas Mavericks, with each game looking worse than the last. Game Four was an embarrassing 122-86 rout by the Mavs which showcased a record 20 three-pointers. With the Mavericks shooting 60.3% from the field and 62.5% from behind the arc, the Lakers never had a chance. Especially when LA shot only 37.8% from the field and an abysmal 28.0% from three-point range.

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After an underachieving regular season which showed flashes of brilliance yet some of the most lethargic and confusing play from a defending championship team, the Lakers seemed to think they could turn a switch to enter the playoffs and dominate. Unfortunately, their lack of drive and focus in the regular season caught up to them even in the first round of the playoffs, where they struggled against the Hornets. The Mavericks simply outplayed the champs, and outplayed them badly.

As the current Lakers dynasty ends, the Chicago Bulls may be rising again. But especially in their series against the Atlanta Hawks, serious flaws in the Bulls game plan are being exposed. While the Bulls defend and rebound well most nights, their offense revolves around giving the ball to Derrick Rose, letting him put up whatever shot he wants, and hoping he makes it, gets fouled, or the Bulls pull down the offensive rebound. When it works, the Bulls win.

But when D-Rose falters, the Bulls lose, as they did last night. Yes, Rose had 34 points, but it took 32 field goal attempts to get those points. And the Bulls shot terribly from three-point range, going 3-of-16. The streaky Hawks were on a hot streak and shot better than the Bulls all night, and ended up with the 100-88 win. Both teams in this series have offenses which rely on very uncertain factors, and the two are trading wins as one team is slightly hotter than the other any given night.

So the Lakers season ends, and maybe the extra rest will be good for the players, who have made it to the finals in each of the past three years, winning the last two championships in the process. The sweep by the Mavs is a wake-up call, but I don't count the Lakers out yet. The Bulls, on the other hand, are looking less like a championship team this year with each passing game. While they have phenomenal talent and a deep rotation, they are still missing some pieces to give them a more reliable offense.

 

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