Dirk Nowitzki abuses Ron Artest

LOS ANGELES – Lakers coach Phil Jackson was asked before Game 2 whether Ron Artest might be the answer to riddle that is defending Dirk Nowitzki.

We got the answer in the final few minutes of the first half: Absolutely not.

Nowitzki overruled the play call as soon as he saw Artest was defending him. Then Dirk went to work on the block.

"I saw Artest was on me and I just pushed [Jason Terry] out and said let me take care of this matchup on the low post,” Nowitzki said. “I felt like I could shoot over him.”

He was right. The 7-footer hit a couple of turnaround jumpers over the 6-foot-7, 260-pound Artest. He knocked down a couple of free throws when Artest was whistled for a foul after trying to wrestle Nowitzki off the block. When the Lakers helped Artest with a double-team, Nowitzki spotted Shawn Marion slashing to the hoop and hit him for an and-1 layup.

Just like that, Nowitzki accounted for nine points on four possessions, all post-ups. That gave the Mavs the lead for good.

It also crushed any belief that Artest, a former Defensive Player of the Year, could man up against the Mavericks’ MVP. That’s a mismatch the Mavs will attack if Artest takes another turn on Dirk.