Game 3 is tonight, with the Dallas Mavericks up 2 games to none against the Los Angeles Lakers. This game is THE most important game of the series. Most people are surprised, myself included, that the series has progressed the way that is has. No one thought that the Lakers would look this bad two games in a row at home. Now they must go on the road and win without Ron Artest, who was suspended for tonight’s game for his flagrant foul on J.J. Barea in Game 2.
Tonight the Lakers have all the pressure in the world on their shoulders. They CANNOT lose this game. And the Mavs know it. The Mavs have to anticipate the Lakers coming out with great intensity and energy. They are going to have to maintain their composure, not panic if the Lakers jump out to a big lead, and just keep grinding. I have a feeling Kobe Bryant is going to come out firing, and could have a big night. But will it be enough?
With Artest out, the Lakers have one less body who can cover Dirk Nowitzki. It is clear that Dirty is eating Pau Gasol’s lunch. He can get his shot at will against Gasol, hitting 9-of-11 shots in the first two games. Bynum has to cover Tyson Chandler. So what other option is left? Perhaps the Lakers should try a zone. They need to do something different because what they are doing is not working. If Gasol is left to guard Dirk, be sure that the Mavs will continue to exploit this mismatch. The only hope the Lakers have is that Dirk has a bad night.
Artest not being available is going to hurt the Lakers on defense, but it may help them on offense. Some are speculating that Shannon Brown will be inserted at the two guard and Kobe will move to small forward. Brown should be more of an offensive threat for the Lakers but will he be able to guard Jason Terry when he comes in? Doubtful. Will Kobe cover Shawn Marion? Would this lineup change cause the Mavs to switch up their defensive matchups? Could be interesting.
The Mavs need to come out with a fast start to keep a fired up crowd in the game. And the crowd will be fired up. They know what is at stake. A loss tonight puts all of the pressure on the Mavs as they cannot lose two games at home. To do so will kill all of their momentum and start the “Mavs choke” talk once again.
But I don’t think that will happen. The Lakers look like they need a heart transplant. They look tired, disinterested, confused, and frustrated. The Mavs are confident and playing great basketball on both ends of the court. While I would not be surprised to see the Lakers get a win tonight, I don’t see it happening. This team wants to win. They know that this might be the last chance for Jason Kidd, especially if the lockout rumors turn out to be true. They want to win for Nowitzki, to prove that his name belongs with the greats of the game. And remember, you can follow all the action right here at the Smoking Cuban, where I will be blogging throughout the game. Enjoy the game and Lets Go Mavs!!!