It’s April 14, 2012 and the (38-22) Los Angeles Lakers are set to battle the (34-26) Dallas Mavericks at the Staples Center. Friday’s win against the Denver Nuggets secured a playoff spot for the Lakers, their 59th in 64 seasons. L.A. is 3-1 with shooting guard Kobe Bryant (left shin) sidelined, including three straight.
The combination of center Andrew Bynum and power forward Pau Gasol inside, and small forwards Matt Barnes and Metta World Peace on the perimeter, led the Lakers to the win over the Nuggets. Los Angeles has six games remaining in the regular season, four against teams with records above .500.
The Lakers are currently leading the Pacific Division and are in sole possession of the third seed in the Western Conference Playoffs. The L.A. Clippers – being one game behind them and also in the Pacific Division – are right on their heals.
The Dallas Mavericks hold the sixth seed in the playoffs. If they started today, these teams would meet again (as the 3-6 match up), with the Lakers having the home court advantage – again. L.A. leads the season series against Dallas 3-0 after taking the season series last year 2-1.
The last time the Lakers lost a season series to the Dallas was in the 2006-2007 season (1-3). Their first series loss to the Mavericks was in the 1986-1987 season. Los Angeles is 7-3 in their last 10 games overall against Dallas and has won the last five straight. They are 19-4 all-time against the Mavericks at the Staples Center and 8-2 in their last 10 home games.
The Dallas Mavericks are 2-0 on their west coast road trips. L.A. is seeking a season sweep of Dallas and this game is important for playoff positioning as well as maintaining momentum and confidence. This opponent is very dangerous. Dallas power forward Dirk Nowitzki and shooting guard Jason Terry have to be contained. The Mavericks have a lot of depth and one of the most productive benches in the league.
The Lakers will be playing their fifth game without Kobe Bryant and his teammates are stepping up their games and playing better as a unit. The shooting guard needs to be given time to heal. The goal is for him to be healthy for the post season.
The Lakers have wanted to rest Bryant for a while and the slow recovery from this injury is making this possible. Point production from the small forward position has been an issue all season, but Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes have stepped up their game and eliminated the concern.
The key to every game for the Lakers is their defense. L.A. has to do a solid job defending the pick-and-roll play, stop the dribble penetration of the guards, control the tempo, get back in transition, control the boards and quickly rotate out to open shooters.
Dallas is a team that looks to shoot from behind the arc so the perimeter defense has to be solid.
The Lakers will be successful using the combination of Bynum and Gasol inside, and Barnes and Metta World Peace on the perimeter. L.A. has to have solid ball movement and good player movement. The team must win the points in the paint battle, limit their turnovers and limit the Mavericks’ opportunities to score second-chance points.
Lakers: R. Sessions, D.Ebanks, M. Peace, P.Gasol, A. Bynum
Mavericks: J. Kidd, R. Beaubois, V. Carter, D. Nowitzki, B. Haywood
Tip-off: 12:30 PM PST
- Los Angeles: ABC & ESPN
- Dallas: ABC & ESPN
- Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (John Ireland & Mychal Thompson)
- Dallas: ESPN 103.3 (Chuck Cooperstein)
- Kobe Bryant (Tenosynovitis, Left Shin) Out
- Andrew Bynum (Sprained Left Ankle) Probable
- Jordan Hill (Sprained MCL, Right Knee) Questionable
- Ramon Sessions (Sprained Left Shoulder, AC Joint) Probable
- Jason Kidd (Groin) Day-to-Day
Jeff Little is the host of “The Locker Room” a daily sports talk radio show. Check him out 6-8 pst M-F on www.sportsjourney.com Follow on Twitter @JeffLittle32 or Facebook. Like Jeff’s articles? Subscribe right here.