Lakers Host Mavs In Second Round Opener

Mavs’ Projected Starting Line-up:

PG: Jason Kidd
SG: DeShawn Stevenson
SF: Shawn Marion
PF: Dirk Nowitzki
C: Tyson Chandler

Key Reserves: G Jason Terry, G Roddy Beaubios, C Brendan Haywood, G J.J. Barea, F Peja Stojakovic

Injuries: SF Caron Butler (Knee, Out)

The Lakers first round series against the Hornets did not go as planned. A desperate New Orleans squad led by inspired play from a resurgent Chris Paul gave the Lakers a run for their money. The purple and gold got back on track, however, and put the Hornets away in six games.

The Mavericks first round series against the Blazers was very much like the Lakers. Dallas did away with Portland in six games as well, despite an emotional Brandon Roy returning to form to spark a couple of Trail Blazer wins. The Mavericks are also waiting for a key component to their team to return from injury, Caron Butler. Initial reports by multiple news outlets had Butler as questionable for the second round series against the Lakers. Those reports have since been changed, and Butler has been ruled out of for this series.

The Lakers and Mavs’ series marks the first time since 1988 that these two franchises have met in the playoffs. There have been plenty of regular season meetings, however, a lot of them filled with fireworks. Just last month, Mavs’ G Jason Terry got into it with Lakers F Matt Barnes and G Steve Blake, resulting in multiple technical fouls, ejections, and a lot of post game chatter from Terry. The Lakers do want to bring toughness to the court, but their focus is to win.

We all know that Kobe and Fish will come to play. They are the heart an soul of this purple and gold team, and have been through hundreds of battles together. With Kobe still nursing an ankle injury, two of the three Killer Bee’s must come ready to play, those being Shannon Brown and Steve Blake. Brown and Blake picked up their play toward the end of the series against New Orleans, but they will be much more important against a Dallas squad that is very deep.

The Lakers front court will be the key to this series. Pau Gasol had a subpar first round against the Hornets, it seemed like the match up he had against Carl Landry hampered his offensive game. Look for Gasol to have a huge bounce-back series against the Mavs’. Andrew Bynum had some good games and some not-so-good games in the first round. His match up against Tyson Chandler will be an interesting one, as Chandler is not known much for his offense, but rather his defense. Bynum cannot afford to get into early foul trouble against a guy who is not offensive minded.

Lamar Odom’s versatility will definitely come in handy against  Dallas. Odom can defend three positions which will be very useful against all of the athletes the Mavs have on the roster. Odom will be asked to check anyone from Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, and even Tyson Chandler. Ron Artest will most likely draw the assignment of covering Nowitzki from the opening tip, this is a challenge that Artest welcomes. Ron has been the most consistent Laker in the playoffs on both ends of the court. The purple and gold need the solid play of Artest to continue.

Again, the Mavericks are a deep, talented, and athletic team. Jason Kid is still one of the best passers in the league, and has been hot from behind the arc thus far in the playoffs. Dirk Nowitzki is a perennial All-Star who brings huge match up problems against any team. The Lakers are the one team who are best suited to deal with Nowitzki’s talent. Shawn Marion is not the same player he was with Phoenix a few years ago, but he is still very effective in transition and on the boards. Tyson Chandler is an extremely good screen roll player, who also uses a majority of his energy on the defensive end.

The Mavs’ bench is led by three small guards with big game. Jason Terry provides a ton  of energy and a huge scoring punch off the bench, while J.J. Barea and Roddy Beaubios come in and speed up an already blistering Dallas pace. The dark horse in this series could be Peja Stojakovic. Stojakovic is a streak shooter who can get hot in a hurry and is impossible to cool down.

Three Keys to a Laker Victory:
1. Slow down Nowitzki – Dirk is the key to all the Mavs’ offensive success. Look for Artest, Odom and Barnes to use their physicality on Dirk to keep him off balance.
2. Control the tempo – The triangle offense is built for playoff success, the Lakers must execute each and every time down.
3. Get Gasol going early – The Lakers need Pau to get back on track. With Gasol clicking on all cylinders, the Lakers are impossible to stop.

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