DALLAS -- Starting Monday night at Staples Center Dirk Nowitzki goes on double duty.
He'll need to be a superstar offensively, but half his energy will be used on the defensive end. That wasn't the case in the first round when Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge could be shuffled off to centers Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood. Nowitzki, meanwhile, had the less hectic task of defending light-scoring Blazers center Marcus Camby.
"I always try to work and help out on the defensive end, but obviously if there is only one great scorer, we’d love to have Tyson or Wood on him," Nowitzki said. "But, they’re loaded up front and that means I have to play both ends of the floor and rebound the ball against that big lineup with Bynum in there and Gasol."
It doesn't stop there. Sixth Man of the Year, 6-foot-10 forward Lamar Odom, brings the position an entirely new dynamic off the bench. Gasol has averaged 20.3 points on 54.5 percent shooting against the Mavs in three games this season. But, he shot just 41.8 percent in the first round against the New Orleans, who tend be more of physical defensive team.
It will largely be up to Nowitzki, certainly not known as a physically imposing defender, to not allow Gasol to heat up.
"Gasol, obviously, is long. He can work on his mid-range shot, he can go over both hands and he’s a great scorer on the block," Nowitzki said. "And then when Odom comes in at the 4, he can bring the ball up. He really shot the ball well last time we played them there, made two 3s right away at the beginning of the fourth that really put the game out of reach. So yeah, I’ve got to play both ends of the floor this series and I’ve got to be ready."
The same could be said for Gasol, who hasn't exactly received nominations for Defensive Player of the Year -- although his average of 1.6 blocks a game during the regular season and 2.33 in the first round dwarfs any of the Mavs' three front-line 7-footers.
Nowitzki, who will also see Odom and even Ron Artest on him at times, has averaged 22.0 points and 10.3 rebounds against the Lakers this season.
Both 7-foot forwards will be difficult to contain, but whichever one makes the other consistently work harder for their points will give their team a distinct advantage as the series progresses.