This is Part IV of our series. Part I referred to the assumptions made for a playoff scenario, Part II referred to how the Mavs will beat the New Orleans Hornets in the first round, Part III analyzed a series against the San Antonio Spurs.
Yes, I know it’s very unlikely under these circumstances that the Dallas Mavericks reach the Western Conference Finals to play the LA Lakers. I’ve even predicted that the Mavs lose in the second round to the Spurs. However, predictions aside, this set of articles is supposed to be matchups that Dallas would face in the playoffs all the way to the title. Therefore, I have the assumption (Read: useless hope) that Dallas somehow overcomes San Antonio to make it to the WC Finals, where they play the #2 Los Angeles Lakers.
First Thoughts: The Mavs have beaten the Lakers before. They’ve also lost close. They also have one more game to go in the regular season. It’s been a bit of a mixed bag for the season, but one thing is certain: If Dallas wants to win against LA, they need everyone on board to put in points. In their win, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry all put in 20+ points. That kind of productivity would be needed in at least four games in order to get into the NBA Finals. Can the Mavs really expect this?
Three Key Issues:
The Power Of LA’s Big Men: Some critics say that Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler are no matches in the paint against Andrew Byrum and Pau Gasol. In the case of the loss, they are right, as the Lakers’ big men out-rebounded Dallas’. However, in the case of the win, Dallas has their big men in the clutch as Nowitzki and Chandler out-rebounded Bryum and Gasol by six rebounds. More importantly, Chandler pulled down six offensive rebounds, allowing for more Dallas offense, the key to winning against the Lakers.
The critics do have a very valid argument when it comes to a defensive showdown. In the two matches of the season so far, the LA’s big men have outscored Dallas’ big men by a whopping 73 points to 49. If Dallas can get rebounds and get their guards to play well (more on that later), perhaps there is a shot. Then again, the Lakers have one of the greatest guards of all time…
Two of the Greatest: Kobe Bryant is going for ring number six this year. He’s one of the most dynamic players the NBA has ever seen and at the end of his career, he should have a fair case to upend Michael Jordan as the “Greatest of All Time”. (Until Kobe is portraying himself in a Looney Tunes flick, I still give it to MJ. Just saying.) There is not a single player on the Mavericks who will slow down Bryant on offense. Unless they injure him again, Dallas is going to see the scoreboard be lit up every night by Kobe.
Additionally, Kobe comes along with the greatest head coach of all time (I’ll even go all sports), Phil Jackson. Jackson is looking for his 12th championship ring. 12th. Comprehend that for a moment. Jackson has to be using his toes as ring-holders because he has more championship rings than he does fingers. He brought up the two best players to grace the NBA in Kobe and MJ. More importantly, Jackson wins in threes. Chicago has title runs in ’91, ’92 and ’93. They did it again in ’96, ’97 and ’98. LA had a run in ’00, ’01 and ’02. And now, the Lakers have won in ’09, ’10 and this is the ’11 season. Follow the logic and you find out that LA is the team to beat this year.
Effectiveness Around the Perimeter: Enough about the greatness of the Lakers. If Dallas is to have any chance of winning any games in this series, the perimeter game needs to work with the offense. In the 109-100 win back in January, Jason Kidd went 5-8 from three-point land and Jason Terry rained down with 4-6. That needs to be replicated again and again to defeat Los Angeles.
It would be nice if the young guys stepped up too. Roddy Beaubois still had a broken foot in January and only put in two points against LA in March. JJ Barea has yet to score more than seven points against the Lakers and has yet to record more than one assist against them this season. Those players need to bring an impact in the Western Conference Finals for Dallas to even have a glimpse of the NBA Finals.
Final Thoughts: It’s hard to see Dallas in this series to begin with. As much as I would love to see them here and as much as I would love to see them win, it just seems unlikely that the Mavs would be able to endure a seven-game series, especially with four games in Los Angeles. Phil Jackson loves his championships in threes and the Lakers are two-time defending champions. Kobe can tie the greatest of all time with his sixth ring. The Lakers have all the right pieces and I would be stunned to see a team other than them win the title.
Again, I hate to admit it, but the Mavs would lose this one in five.
In our final installment of our series, I’ll analyze the Mavericks themselves and see what they need in order to turn into contenders for 2012.