51 was apparently the magic number for the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks, as the two teams have played in a combined 51 playoff series (and made a combined eight finals appearances) since the 1990-2000 season. However, not once have the two teams been matched up with each other for a round of postseason action. Led by their respective superstars in Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki, the Lakers and Mavericks are unquestionably two of the last decade’s most successful franchises, which not only makes this series as long-overdue, but it sets the stage for a true battle between Western Conference powerhouses.
While the Mavericks have yet to gasp a breath of championship air, there’s no denying their presence as a formidable team in the Wild Wild Western Conference, as they are powered by the face of their franchise’s history, Nowitzki – who, in my opinion, is the best power forward in basketball. At the same time, while their roster is rich in postseason experience (Nowitzki is flanked by a cast of seasoned veterans/former stars in Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Peja Stojakovic and Jason Terry), the Mavericks’ presence as a true finals contenders has often been placed under high-scrutiny, as they have fallen short of expectations and buckled under pressure in big situations more than a few times.
Although many pegged Dallas over the Portland Trail Blazers as the more favorable second-round matchup for the Lakers, that’s not to say this series is going to be a cake-walk for the defending champs either. The Lakers got their wish of drawing the Hornets in the first round, and everyone saw that the Lakers still had to earn their bid to the semi-finals. So, just because they may have gotten an easier, more susceptible to choking opponent – the Mavericks put a great deal of talent on the floor each night, and even if they fall victim to the purple and gold, they aren’t going to make it easy on Bryant and Co. while doing so.
Since the Nowitzki-era began in the early 2000’s, the Mavericks have been known as a high-octane offensive ball club that likes to put a lot of points on the board. However, as Nowitzki has matured as a player, so has the philosophy of the Mavericks, who gave up only 96.2 points per game to opposing teams this season – compared to 99.3 the year before.
But while the Mavericks have seen growth in so many areas over the years – from their coaching to their defense to their offensive efficiency, they have yet to find an answer for the man who once outscored the after 36 minutes, 62-61.
And it’s not an easy task to do. Not many teams or players can honestly say that they have successfully contained the Black Mamba. Even at a ripe 32-years of age, Kobe’s still as venomous as ever, and you best believe he’ll be looking to sink his teeth into the heart of Mark Cuban when the series kicks-off tonight at STAPLES Center.
So, with the long-awaited matchup of the two franchises set to commence in less than 12 hours, here are three things to expect from Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks in the upcoming best-of-seven series.
Next: You Can Hate, But Dirk is Great
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