Breaking down Lakers-Mavs, L.A. view
But at the end of the day, the Lakers can -- and often do -- count on their defense when all else fails. Andrew Bynum patrols the lane like no other big not named "Dwight." Ron Artest is uniquely capable of changing the tenor of games with his defense. Kobe, when dialed in, is a viciously competitive defender. Lamar Odom's (and to a lesser degree, Pau Gasol's) D is very underrated. Steve Blake and Matt Barnes can be pests. And Derek Fisher finds way to have a couple of great defensive games each series.
These individuals often forge a smothering collective, and the Lakers ultimately hang their hats on this asset.
Outside shooting. The Lakers were a dismal 37.5 percent on shots 16-23 feet out (26th-NBA), and tied for 17th behind the arc (35.2 percent). They've been better in the playoffs from downtown (36.7 percent), but that's hardly shooting the lights out. In the meantime, the Mavs play a lot of zone, which specifically dares opponents to launch long jumpers. The Lakers typically handle this temptation like Lindsay Lohan at an open bar.
Do you see where I'm going with this?
MOST IMPORTANT MATCHUP
|ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon joins ESPNLosAngeles.com's Andy and Brian Kamenetzky to preview the Lakers-Mavericks Western Conference semifinals.
However, with the starters taking a breather, things might get hairy.
Talent-wise, the best player among reserves on either team is Odom. However, Jason Terry is the best pure scorer among subs, and the Mavs are probably more talented overall. Barnes (dealing with knee issues) Blake and Shannon Brown have been inconsistent all season, which has bled into the playoffs. They finished the Hornets series on a strong note, so perhaps momentum can carry into the semis. Unfortunately, they can likely be counted on occasionally undo whatever leads the starters build.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Of course, Games 5 and 6 were quality efforts and Pau won't likely encounter nearly the same physicality against Dallas/Dirk. Were I betting man, I'd lay cash on a good series. Still, it's been Pau's most inconsistent season as a Laker and the dips have surfaced at inexplicable times. For the time being, I think it's safe to say all eyes remain fixed in his direction.
TO WIN THE SERIES, LAKERS MUST ...
Be themselves, to be honest. I don't mean this to sound dismissive towards the Mavericks, without question a quality team. My official prediction is "Lakers in 6," but my second choice would be "7" over "5." They could absolutely test the Lakers. But at the end of the day, the Lakers are the better, bigger, more experienced team and Dallas matches up badly against them. Assuming the Lakers play to their strengths, unless Dirk has an epic series, I don't see the Mavs pulling the upset, especially without home court advantage.
Read the Dallas perspective here.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett at Mavericks media day to discuss his expectations for the upcoming season.
Play Podcast Mark Cuban joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Mavericks' new GM Gersson Rosas and much more.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mark Cuban's comments from Las Vegas about the Mavericks' offseason, how he sees the team without Dwight Howard and more.
Play Podcast Marc Stein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why the Mavericks didn't want to match Cleveland's offer to Andrew Bynum, what's next for the Mavs and the possibility of Dirk Nowitzki ending his career elsewhere.
Play Podcast Jeff Platt fires quick-hitters at Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon in the weekly sports standoff about Andrew Bynum, the Mavs' current backcourt, a potential Nelson Cruz suspension and more.
Play Podcast ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why she thinks Andrew Bynum got a bad rap in Los Angeles and how he would fit in with the Mavericks.
Play Podcast Buy, sell or hold? If Dwight Howard goes to another team, what are the Mavs' options? The guys take a look at a list of potential fallback options.
Play Podcast ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard.