Dallas coach Rick Carlisle and point guard Jason Kidd pointed out that Artest's absence, which is his punishment for a blatant cheap shot at J.J. Barea in the final minute of the Mavs' Game 2 win, might mean more minutes for Sixth Man of the Year Lamar Odom.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson had been coy about who will replace Artest in the starting lineup, but Odom said after shootaround that he expects to get the assignment, and sure enough he was on the court at tipoff.
"Odom will probably play more, and he's one of their best players," said Carlisle, whose team took a 2-0 lead in the series with a pair of wins at the Staples Center. "That could be a positive thing for them."
Added Kidd: "It probably puts Lamar on the floor a little bit more. Maybe that makes them a little bit better in that sense, because you're talking about an All-Star who puts a lot of pressure, being able to handle the ball and shoot the 3. We'll see what they do differently, but they've still got Kobe [Bryant], [Andrew] Bynum and [Pau] Gasol, so we've got to be ready."
The 6-foot-10 Odom, who plays primarily power forward but has perimeter skills, is averaging 10.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game this series. He struggled in Game 2, when he scored only six points on 3-of-12 shooting and the Lakers were outscored by 18 in his 26 minutes.
Artest has had an awful series, averaging only 6.5 points on 27.8 percent shooting.
The media notes listed Shannon Brown as the starting shooting guard, with Bryant sliding to small forward, but the Lakers have other options in Matt Barnes, Luke Walton and Odom, who ultimately got the start. The sight of Odom at small forward is a different wrinkle for Jackson's Lakers.
"He hasn't played 3 for us," Jackson said pregame. "I don't know if he's ever played 3 for me. But, you know, in a catch-all, he could do it tonight."
The tall trio of Odom, Gasol and Bynum isn't something the Lakers have utilized this season. That threesome played less than three minutes together all season.
However, Odom doesn't anticipate it being a difficult adjustment to play with the Lakers' two skilled 7-footers. Odom pointed out that the Mavs rarely run isolation plays for small forward Shawn Marion, so he wouldn't be "on an island" defensively.
"I don't think it will be much of an adjustment," Odom said pregame. "We know how to play basketball. We'll try to make the floor as small as possible, make them beat us over the top. It's a pretty big frontcourt."
Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.