For the record, Kareem might’ve been referring to his pre-game routine, but since it also applies to in-game situations, I’m going with it. If the Lakers are to dominate they’ll need to do it by playing defense, effectively using their presence inside and taking high-percentage shots—basically stick with what works to their advantage.
If that sounds simplified, it does. If it sounds like something the Lakers can do easily, it is. If you believe the Lakers will execute it perfectly, you haven’t been watching.
Defensively the Lakers have to be solid. The only sure-thing offense the Mavericks have going for them is Dirk Nowitzki. During the regular season the Lakers did an okay job of containing Nowitzki, holding him below his overall totals in scoring, field goal percentage and free throw attempts. They’re not going to shut-down Dallas’ leading scorer, but they’ll have to do what they did to prevent him from scoring at will—mainly sending multiple defenders his way and try to keep him off his preferred spots—with much more intensity and fervor than in the regular season.
Aside from defending Dirk straight up, the Lakers will have to orchestrate effective defensive rotations to prevent the Dallas pick-and-roll, which is really more of a pick-and-pop. The Lakers can’t switch and let Nowitzki shoot over a guard, he’ll otherwise smoke them. They may choose not to switch, opting to have the defender stay on Dirk to prevent an easy jump shot, but they’ll have to do a better job than Portland did to dismantle any type of chaos Jason Terry and J.J. Barea may cause as a result of no one rotating to them in the paint. This is where Andrew Bynum needs to come in and be the same shot-blocking and rebounding beast he was during the last series.
“We’re obviously preparing to play a different team, a very good team in the Mavericks — a very efficient team, very well-balanced in what they do,” said Derek Fisher. “They play hard, they play with passion, they play with energy.”
While the Lakers have their hands full with Nowitzki, they can’t completely ignore the rest of Dallas’ supporting cast. Terry comes off the bench and is at times the Mavs’ second leading scorer, Tyson Chandler is a seven-footer who can run the floor and Shawn Marion can slash his way to the basket for easy buckets, but the ebb and flow of a balanced Dallas offense relies heavily upon Jason Kidd’s 38-year mastery of the point guard position. If he can control the pace and get the Mavs off in transition, it’ll be an added chore for the Lakers. The Lakers can prevent Kidd from making his mark on the series by cutting down turnovers and crashing the boards. Which brings me to my next point…
Next: Lakers need to defeat the Mavs with their unmatchable size inside
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