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Friday, April 29, 2011
Lakers vs. Mavericks - Early thoughts and questions


Flip over to ESPN.com's official Lakers vs. Mavs page and one thing quickly pops out: 12 basketball writers forecast the series, and all 12 pick the Lakers. Four in five games, five in six, and three in seven.

Not a huge surprise. Dallas is a perennial playoff disappointment, and despite polishing off a very solid Portland squad in six games, few believe they have the requisite combination of talent and intestinal fortitude to knock off L.A. Particularly after a late season swoon costing them a chance to host this round instead of opening things up at Staples, and when all the matchups are taken into account. As it is in every series against the Lakers, the Mavs have the basic questions to answer about who guards Kobe Bryant or how to deal with L.A.'s length. On paper, at least, Dallas is not quite as equipped to exploit weaknesses of the Lakers as other teams in the Western Conference.

I won't rock the boat, because I'm picking the Lakers, too. But count me among those expecting a longer series. Dallas is a balanced team with depth, well coached and highly motivated. They'll be a tough out.

Season Series: Lakers, 2-1.

1. January 19 (at Dallas)- Mavericks 109, Lakers 100
2. March 12 (at Dallas)- Lakers 96, Mavericks 91
3. March 31 (at Staples)- Lakers 110, Mavericks 82

The final two games will be the ones receiving the most attention when people look back at the season series, particularly the March 31st game in which the Lakers outscored Dallas 56-31 in the second half and five players were ejected thanks to a Jason Terry shove on Steve Blake. Both were important games rife with playoff implications, and for the Lakers to win both probably means something. Still, reading too much into either, especially the blowout, is a mistake. The score didn't reflect it at the end, but through the first 24 minutes the Lakers had only a three-point lead, and the game felt similar to the very competitive one played a couple weeks earlier in Dallas. The second half constituted a total unraveling of the Mavericks, not something likely- or less likely, at least- to happen in the postseason.

Bottom line, relying too much on regular season results can be a very poor diagnostic for the playoffs.

Questions and Ponderables:

At the very least, that last pairing should provide some great copy for people like me. We'll obviously bring you plenty more on this series between now and Monday's Game 1. Should be entertaining, but ultimately the better team is the Lakers, and in over a seven game series in the NBA, the better team almost always wins.