Last week, I noted that the Grizzlies' dramatic Game 5 loss to the Spurs shifted momentum in the first-round series but in no way doomed the Grizzlies to a collapse. In the playoffs, with each team extremely focused, there just aren't wild momentum swings. Tangible on-court edges matter far more.
Phil Jackson apparently agrees. From Jeff Miller on OCRegister.com:
The problem? They aren't likely to reclaim momentum anytime soon. And that's not our opinion. That's Phil Jackson's.
"I don't know if that's going to happen," the coach said Tuesday. "It's been my experience that that doesn't always happen because teams are very good at this point in the playoffs. They can make adjustments. They leap-frog each other from game-to-game."
The point here isn't necessarily that the Mavericks and Lakers will trade wins up until Game 7, but that whatever minor emotional edge exists is relatively negligible. Teams are much more interested in their strategical advantage.
If the Lakers win the series, it'll probably be because they found a way to exploit their size advantage inside. If the Mavericks win, it'll probably be because the Lakers never found a way to contain Dirk Nowitzki. Either outcome likely won't depend on which team rides the Momentum Dragon to Flavor Country.
The Lakers were widely predicted to win this series in six or seven games, and that result will require them to win a few games in a row. But that accomplishment won't be a function of momentum. It'll happen because they're the better team.
- Phil Jackson