Tonight begins Round 2! The Dallas Mavericks are coming into Los Angeles to play the two-time defending champion Lakers. Believe it or not this is the first time that Dirk Nowitzki has played Kobe Bryant in the playoffs. The Mavs have not met the Lakers in the playoffs since the Western Conference Finals in 1988. Hard to believe but it is true.
A few interesting facts that are most ominious for the boys from Big D. First, Dallas has never won a playoff game in Los Angeles, going 0-10. Obviously this will have to change if the Mavericks are going to advance to the next round. Second, Phil Jackson coached teams are 48-0 in series in which they win game one. These two facts, when taken together, make tonight’s game a must win if history is a trustworthy indicatior of the outcome of this series.
So what do the Mavs need to do to win this series? Here are the keys to the series as I see it.
First, the Mavs must win the war in the paint. Look, Kobe Bryant is going to score (unless his ankle is a bigger problem than we know). But Kobe is not going to win this series by himself. It is Paul Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom who will win or lose this series. The Mavs know this. This is why they traded for Tyson Chandler. This is why they brought in Brendan Haywood. They know that they need the size to compete with the Lakers.
Tyson Chandler is going to have to be careful and stay out of foul trouble. He is going to have to put a body on Bynum and contest every shot. He is going to have to bang the boards hard. We know that things get more physical this time of year. Refs let guys battle a little harder. Not only is Chandler going to have to provide toughness down low, but so will Dirk Nowitzki.
Dirk is going to score. But his biggest contribution may be on the boards and on the defensive side of the court. Nowitzki must make Gasol work for shots. And Gasol is not the most physical guy out there. This is not an impossible task. If Nowitzki is able to average close to a double-double, the Mavs will have a great chance to advance. Brendan Haywood will also have to play aggressively, smart, and great defense.
Second, the Mavs are going to have to make sure to get more players involved and keep them involved in the offense. The Mavs get into trouble when they just depend solely on Nowitzki to score points. This team is at it’s best when it makes the extra pass and gets everyone involved. Both Jason Terry and Shawn Marion need to score more than 10 points each game. Jason Kidd needs to hit his three-point shots, in addition to getting the ball to the open guy. Peja Stoyakovic needs to provide quality minutes and provide a spark off the bench.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the Mavs must avoid turnovers and fouls. The Mavs have a very bad habit of not only starting slowly, but turning over the ball and getting into early foul trouble. Granted, Roddy Beaubois usually is the main culprit and he doesn’t look like he is going to get a lot of minutes, but Chandler gets into foul trouble too often. He cannot do that in this series.
I think that this is going to be a great series. Both are quality, veteran teams. The Lakers have what the Mavs want. Just about everyone thinks that the Lakers roll right through the Mavs, except Charles Barkley. The Mavs have nothing to lose. No one even thought they would get by Portland. The Mavs are hungry, and it’s time to eat. Mavs will win it in six, starting with game one. Beat L.A.!