It's easy to forget that the Mavericks ran into the Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs three times in a span of five years.
It's easy to forget that because the Lakers are one of only three Western Conference teams that Dallas hasn't faced in the playoffs this millennium.
Lakers. Clippers. Seattle/Oklahoma City.
Those are the only three West foes that the Mavs haven't encountered in the postseason since their breakthrough squad of 2000-01 came back from 2-0 down to win a Game 5 in Utah on what is commonly referred to as the $35 million layup ... because that's roughly how much money Calvin Booth earned in a free-agent contract from the Sonics just a few months after his series-clinching bucket in Salt Lake City.
(An aside: I recently heard a story about that unforgettable series that I actually either can't remember hearing before or have simply deleted from my disintegrating memory. It seems that Don Nelson's speech to his team of playoff neophytes before Game 3, with the Jazz just one win away from the second round, came with a promise. "Win these two games at home," Nellie told the young Mavs, "and I'll figure out a way to win us a Game 5 in Utah." I wonder if he really believed it when he said.)
I bring all of this up now because I'm still thinking of Friday's long-awaited Staples Center breakthrough against the Lakers. We repeat: It would be foolish to overstate the importance of one win in late October, especially with Pau Gasol out injured, meaning that L.A. was playing without its No. 2 difference-maker. All I'm saying is that the buzz you could feel through the TV on Friday night kept reminding me how overdue we are for a Mavs-Lakers series ... before we even bring up the Mark Cuban/Phil Jackson trash-talk factor that could only make the matchup wild after years of trash-talking from afar between rival owner and coach.
Here's the breakdown of the Mavs' playoff opposition in the West since 2001:
2-2 versus San Antonio (2001, 2003, 2006, 2009)
1-2 versus Sacramento (2002, 2003, 2004)
1-1 versus Phoenix (2005, 2006)
1-0 versus Memphis (2006)
1-0 versus Houston (2005)
1-0 versus Portland (2003)
1-0 versus Minnesota (2002)
1-0 versus Utah (2001)
0-1 versus Denver (2009)
0-1 versus New Orleans (2008)
0-1 versus Golden State (2007)