Lakers - Mavericks Playoff Preview

This Season’s Matchups
The Lakers and Mavericks met three times in 2010-11, L.A. dropping the first matchup on January 19 before twice defeating Dallas in March, decisive wins both. Here’s a quick hitter from each of those contests, with links to our detail-filled Lakers.com Gameday pages.

Lakers 110, Mavs 82 - Mar. 31 @ STAPLES Center: Kobe Bryant scored 28 points, Andrew Bynum had 18 points and 13 rebounds, and the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Dallas Mavericks 110-82 in a testy affair in which five players were ejected Thursday night. Dallas stayed close in the first half, but L.A. was terrific in the second, outscoring the Mavs 28-19 in the third quarter and 28-12 in the fourth, with three straight three-pointers from Lamar Odom pushing L.A.’s lead from nine to 18 surrounding the end of the third and start of the fourth, also likely locking up his Sixth Man of the Year award over Dallas guard Jason Terry (five points on 2-of-9 shooting) in the process.

Lakers 96, Mavs 91 - Mar. 12 @ Dallas: Late in the third quarter of a game L.A. had controlled throughout, Kobe Bryant’s ankle basically hit the floor, the sprain was so bad. Yet as he’d done a time or two before, Bryant returned to the game to help L.A. close out a 96-91 victory that doubled as Phil Jackson’s 600th victory as the Lakers’ coach. Andrew Bynum was huge with 22 points and 15 boards, while Ron Artest added 12 points and eight boards. Dirk Nowitzki had 25 points for Dallas in the loss.

Mavs 109, Lakers 100 - Jan. 19 @ Dallas: The Lakers controlled the first meeting between the two Western powers in the first half, at least until L.A. stopped contesting three-point shots and the Mavs ran away with a 109-100 win that left L.A.’s coaches frustrated with all the blown defensive assignments. Jason Kidd broke out of an awful shooting slump to score a season-high 21 points, and Jason Terry and Shawn Marion added 22 apiece, snapping a six-game losing streak. Kobe Bryant had 10 assists with his 21 points, Pau Gasol 23 points and Lamar Odom 20 points with 10 boards off the bench for L.A.


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Phil Jackson’s message on the white board of L.A.’s visiting locker room in New Orleans after the team’s dominant 98-80 Game 6 victory wasn’t full of superlatives for the team’s ninth straight playoff series victory, but rather a reminder of what’s yet to be accomplished:

12 mo’.

(We’ll take the liberty of interpreting “mo’” as “more.” More wins, that is, in case you needed further interpretation … OK, you didn’t).

W’s numbers 5, 6, 7, and 8 en route to the ultimate goal of a three-peat will have to come against a team that the Lakers somehow haven’t faced in the playoffs in the Phil/Kobe Bryant era (try 1988!), despite the Dallas Mavericks winning 50 games with even more regularity than L.A. this past decade.

Third-seeded Dallas won its Game 6 on an opponent’s court about two hours after L.A. did the same, defeating the Portland Trail Blazers as Kobe Bryant iced his ankle, the Lakers’ team plane flying somewhere over Texas. While Dallas is a better all-around team than New Orleans, they lack a couple areas that gave the Lakers problems in Round 1: the dynamic play of a point guard wreaking havoc in the paint (hello, Chris Paul) and the kind of quicker, more physical bigs like Carl Landry that annoy Pau Gasol.

That’s not to say anything’s guaranteed for the Lakers, who have respect for Dallas and particularly for All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, lead among several Mavs’ scoring options. The respect goes both ways, as with an eye towards L.A.’s length, the Mavs did their best to solidify a front line featuring Dirk with the offseason acquisition of Tyson Chandler, and a late 2010 trade involving Brendan Haywood.

“They are big and Nowitzki is a seven-footer and so is their center, Tyson Chandler,” said Phil Jackson. “Obviously, (Brendan) Heywood is a seven-footer. So they have size, but (the Lakers) have proven their dominance by their size. This is the reason why we are champions.”

In other words, while what Chandler and Haywood have in size may match up on paper with Andrew Bynum (often dominant in Round 1), Gasol and Lamar Odom, there remains a gulf from a skill set standpoint, as neither Mavs big is asked for much on offense. That responsibility still starts with the German who’s vied for European Player of the Year trophies with L.A.’s Spaniard (Gasol has won the last three, Dirk from 2002-06), and carries over to Odom’s runner up for Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry, all under the strings of puppet master Jason Kidd.

It was Dallas, not the Lakers, who (along with San Antonio) raced to the top of the Western standings earlier in the season. But it was L.A. who twice exerted its power on Dallas after the All-Star break, including a 110-82 beating at STAPLES Center on March 31. That game proved paramount in the standings, as the teams both finished with the same number of wins (57), but the Lakers earned home court advantage in the coming series with the tiebreaker of winning their Pacific Division (San Antonio bested Dallas in the Southwest).

As such, Game 1 starts on Monday in Los Angeles, giving us: Kobe vs. Dirk (finally); Phil vs. Mark Cuban (key for those of us who enjoy consuming mostly benevolent trash talking); Bynum vs. Chandler (the Mavs’ defensive stalwart who nonetheless struggles with Bynum’ sheer size); L.A.’s bench vs. a Mavs’ crew that likens itself as the league’s best (with which Odom will take issue); Terry against Steve Blake and Matt Barnes (neither of whom has forgotten about Terry’s late-game shove of Blake and the resulting 1-game suspension of Barnes).

And so on.

Three days, and we get to watch how it all plays out.

MAVS: Against Portland, there were more than a few bad “Hot Tub Time Machine” jokes directed towards Kidd, one of three still-active players from the 1994 Draft class (Grant Hill, Juwan Howard). He hit 16-of-25 shots, including 9 3’s, to lead Dallas to wins in Games 1 and 2, then posted 14 assists (for his 12th time in the playoffs) in the pivotal Game 5. But L.A. did well to run Kidd off the 3-point line in their two wins vs. Dallas in March, his impact upon both games minimized. LAKERS: Chris Paul, post Game 6: “A lot of credit goes to Derek Fisher. I told him after the game he played unbelievable D for the entire series.” Fisher moves from one of the league’s absolute toughest covers in CP3 to Jason Kidd, a real scoring threat only from 3-point range. Fish was (quietly) very solid on offense in Round 1, hitting 20-of-38 FG’s (52.6%), including 5-of-9 3’s (55.6%).

ADVANTAGE: MAVS. It’s not often that Fisher will be favored at the point guard slot, but that’s not necessarily his fault, as the things he’s asked to do for L.A. – lead, hit open shots, make key defensive plays and ensure the Lakers are properly running the triangle and distributing the ball – aren’t ones that generally show up big in the box score. He just does his job. Still, while Kidd isn’t the All-Star he was for so many years, he’s still entirely critical to how Dallas wants to play.

MAVS: DeShawn Stevenson started each Round 1 game, but averaged only 12.7 mpg., the bulk of his burn going to either Jason Terry (33.2) or J.J. Barea (17.7). Tricky for Dallas: Stevenson may have the best chance to match up on D with Kobe, but the Mavs lose out on offense. Roddy Beaubois (foot) did not play in Round 1 and averaged only three points against the Lakers, while Caron Butler (knee) will not play in the series. LAKERS: Kobe Bryant had quite an impressive NBA record heading into Thursday’s Game 6 at N.O., having scored at least 30 points in eight consecutive close out games, three more even than Michael Jordan. He went for only 24 due in part to a great late stretch from L.A.’s second, but more importantly for LAL, the ankle/foot Kobe hurt in Game 4 appeared to be OK heading into Round 2. Even with all L.A.’s size, Bryant is the one player for whom the Mavs have no answer.

ADVANTAGE: LAKERS. The biggest discrepancy in any matchup, Dallas can’t even really punish L.A. on defense by removing Stevenson for Terry or Barea because Bryant can just slide over to guard Jason Kidd. By the way … Kobe will very likely surpass Shaquille O’Neal for third on the all-time playoff scoring list in the series.

MAVS: Shawn Marion remains an occasional offensive contributor and solid defender, even though he struggled with Brandon Roy down the stretch of Portland’s Game 4 come-from-waaaaay down win. The Mavs like to use Marion late in games on Bryant, but its not a matchup Kobe seems to mind, and it also creates a major disadvantage for Dallas with Kidd trying to handle Artest. LAKERS: Did you know that Ron Artest has had like seven surgeries on various fingers (he’s not sure the exact number) due to the constant swiping and thrusting at offensive players he’s haunting around the court? His D was great all year and in Round 1, and meanwhile, he quietly ranked 7th among all playoff performers in FG% heading into Game 6 (54%). Now that was a surprise.

ADVANTAGE: LAKERS. Such is L.A.’s star power and skill on offense that their defense, which held opponents to 43.7% FG’s (just 0.7 behind NBA-leader Chicago), doesn’t get as much ink. No player is more key defensively on the perimeter than Artest particularly in a seven-game series, when his physicality wears and wears on fatiguing opponents.

MAVS: The difference between Dirk Nowitzki and the second-best player on Dallas … Terry? Kidd? … is easily greater than the gulf between Bryant and Gasol, which is why Dirk got a lot of MVP votes, the Mavs going just 2-7 when he missed games. Dirk was by far the best player in the Portland series heading into his most difficult matchup of the season with Gasol and Lamar Odom, who held him to 22 ppg in the regular season, though Dirk was efficient in shooting 46%. LAKERS: So consistent has Pau Gasol been for the Lakers through three straight trips to the Finals that it was quite surprising for many to watch him struggle to averages of 13.5 points and 6.8 boards against N.O. But he responded when needed with good all-around performances in Games 5 and 6, and L.A. expects him to be more comfortable against the front line of Dallas than the small, quick group of Hornets that effectively buzzed around him.

ADVANTAGE: MAVS. Because Dirk is the clear No. 1 and Gasol No. 1A on their respective teams, Nowitzki gets the slight edge here. It’s tough to find a 1-on-1 matchup with more pure skill in the NBA, each player adept at so many different things offensively, though Gasol is a more impactful defensive player. This one promises to be a pleasure to watch.

MAVS: So good defensively and on the offensive glass (13 in Game 5 vs. POR) has Tyson Chandler been that Phil Jackson offered up an unsolicited All-Star suggestion for the Mavs C who doubles as the emotional leader in Big D. That said, Chandler is long and quick, but at 235 pounds had a lot of trouble containing Bynum (16.7 ppg, 11.7 rpg vs. DAL) in the regular season. If he can’t body up, look for some more Brendan Haywood. LAKERS: Andrew Bynum averaged a double-double in the first round (15.2 ppg, 10.3 rpg + 1.83 bpg), and was at times so dominant in the paint that one hardly noticed guys named Kobe, Pau or Lamar … no small feat. After one such dominant performance in the first half of Game 3, Bynum came up lame on his sore right knee, but it proved just a scare, all in Purple and Gold letting out a heavy sigh of relief. He knows the knee is always cause for some amount of trepidation, but a healthy Bynum equals major problems for the Mavs.

ADVANTAGE: LAKERS. Bynum may just be too big for Chandler and too skilled for Haywood, and as the anchor of an L.A. defense built around him, Bynum also improved his screen/roll D in Round 1. His No. 1 goal out of Round 1 was to stay healthy. So far, so good.

MAVS: Jason Terry’s been the key piece off the Mavs bench for years, and he was a handful for the Blazers while averaging 17.1 ppg on 48.8% FG’s. His bench scoring will be key against L.A., though the Lakers have been among the league’s best at contesting perimeter jumpers, Terry’s strength. The Mavs are hoping to get 3-point shooting from Peja Stojakovic (9.5 ppg in Round 1) and more offense from J.J. Barea (5.2 ppg), while Brendan Haywood was the only big man to see any legit PT off the bench (5.2 rpg in 18.8 min.) Coach Rick Carlisle could activate Corey Brewer for his defense if Roddy B can’t go. LAKERS: Lamar Odom received his Sixth Man of the Year trophy in Game 2 of the Hornets series, clearly moved by the standing ovation from both his teammates and fans appreciative of his embracing of the role so critical to L.A.’s success. Odom had his best Round 1 game when it counted in the clinching Game 6, and he helped the rest of his team’s second unit play its best basketball of the season through Games 5 and 6, certainly a positive sign going into the rest of the postseason. Matt Barnes finally looked healthy, Steve Blake ran the offense well and hit some key shots along with Shannon Brown, and all three were extremely active on defense.

ADVANTAGE: LAKERS. While Dallas has a lot of options on its bench, the injuries to Butler and Beaubois weakened the team’s depth. It’s L.A.’s bench that has the best overall player in Odom, and a threesome of Killah B’s that seem to have finally found some cohesion as Barnes looks more like his pre-injury self.

ABOUT THE MAVS

  • Before breaking through with a big 103-96 win at Portland in Game 6, Dallas struggled to score on the road, averaging 94.3 ppg at home and 87.0 ppg on the road.
  • However, Dallas tied Miami for the league’s best regular season road record at 28-13 (.683). The Lakers would have overtaken that mark had they not lost at Golden State and Portland in the final week of the season.
  • Dirk Nowitzki ranks 25th on the all-time playoff scoring list (2,796), which is extremely impressive unless you’re comparing him to Kobe Bryant (5,187), who’s up to third and should surpass Shaquille O’Neal (5,248) in this series.
  • Dirk also matched a Michael Jordan playoff record by making 13-of-13 fourth quarter free throws in Game 1 of Dallas’ Round 1 series.
  • This is the 11th consecutive playoff appearance for the Mavs, and 17th overall, the second-longest streak in the NBA (San Antonio, 14). However, the Mavs have made only three trips to the Western Finals, and one to the NBA Finals (2006).
  • Jason Kidd’s 2,001 playoff assists rank third in NBA history behind, you guessed it, John Stockton (1,839) and Magic Johnson (2,346).
  • Of the 118 players to score 15,000 career NBA points, the Mavs have four: Dirk (22,792), Kidd (16,772), Jason Terry (15,537) and Shawn Marion (15,151).