Mavs-Lakers: Looking Back at a Great Series ... and a Horrible Prediction
I'm stunned by the Mavs sweeping the Lakers, punctuated by Sunday's 122-86 epic shellacking. Matter of fact, I'm more surprised by this outcome than the Navy SEALs sweeping Osama.
I gave currency to "the Lakers' size advantage" and the Mavs' "inability to penetrate via the dribble" as big reasons for picking Lakers in 5.
Where else did I go wrong? And where exactly did the Mavs go right?
PREDICTION: Point Guard -- The Hornets forced a 2-2 first-round series with L.A. because of penetrating point guard Chris Paul. With 38-year-old Jason Kidd, the Mavs have no such player to exploit Derek Fisher's defensive liability. You gotta think at least one game will be decided on a clutch play by one of these grizzled veterans. Edge: Mavericks.
RESULT -- Kidd had 15 turnovers in the series to only two for Fisher, but neither had an impact offensively. It was on defense where Kidd earned his edge, helping hold Kobe Bryant to a mortal series with physical, man-to-man defense.
PREDICTION: Shooting Guard -- Gimpy ankle or no, Kobe Bryant will be by far the best player on the court. Dallas' only hope is for DeShawn Stevenson to get him out of rhythm with early-game antagonism. Look for Dallas to play lots of zone defense. Edge: Lakers.
RESULT -- Kobe averaged 23 points, but on 20 shots per game. He committed 11 turnovers, shot only 15 free throws and didn't drive aggressively to the basket, instead settling for jumpers. His miss at the end of Game 1 changed the series. Wouldn't be surprised if he announces an ankle injury in the next day or two, because something wasn't right.
PREDICTION -- Small Forward -- This is where "soft" comes into play. The playoffs are always increased intensity, and the more physical the game the bigger the edge for Ron Artest over the finesse game of Dallas' Shawn Marion. Edge: Lakers.
RESULT -- Marion kicked Artest's ass. He had more points, rebounds and assists in the series and Artest missed Game 3 via suspension. Artest also wasn't a factor defensively on Dirk and produced L.A.'s lowlight when he missed a breakaway on Sunday.
PREDICTION -- Power Forward -- Dirk Nowitzki will get his 25+ points against Pau Gasol, but the Lakers' 7-footer also makes Dirk work defensively in the paint at the other end. Edge: Mavericks.
RESULT -- Dirk indeed got his 25, but his Gasol was gawdaful. He never put his footprint on Nowitzki at the offensive end. Props to Dirk's defense, for once.
PREDICTION -- Center -- With a 40-pound edge and better refined low-post skills, Andrew Bynum has eaten up Tyson Chandler this year to the average tune of 20 points, 14 rebounds. L.A. is often fueled by extra possessions thanks to his offensive rebounding. Edge: Lakers.
RESULT -- Bynum outplayed Chandler, but the Mavs didn't get killed on the boards. And it was Bynum who confirmed the cracks in L.A.'s foundation with his "we have trust issues" admission after Game 2.
PREDICTION -- Bench -- Lamar Odom won Sixth Man of the Year and gives Dallas fits because he's a big who can handle the ball on the perimeter. Like it was against Portland, Jason Terry's jumper must be going down for the Mavs to have a chance. After no-showing in the first round and basically since arriving in Dallas, maybe Corey Brewer gets a shot to check Kobe? Guaranteed at some point Matt Barnes will piss you off. Dallas' Brendan Heywood and Peja Stojakovic need to be better than they've been all season as far as rebounding and 3-point shooting. Edge: Mavericks.
RESULT -- Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic combined for 24 3-pointers, nine more than the Lakers. Corey Brewer had a positive impact on Game 1, Brendan Heywood contributed 23 rebounds in 61 minutes and J.J. Barea did indeed penetrate -- and frustrate -- the Lakers with his dribbling drives.
PREDICTION -- Coaching -- Rick Carlisle got two third-place votes in Coach of the Year balloting. Phil Jackson has 11 championship rings. Through the years Jackson's teams are an astounding 48-0 when winning Game 1. Edge: Lakers.
RESULT -- Jackson spent the series in denial, even getting fined for ripping the refs. Carlisle wasn't afraid to play his bench big minutes and used the zone defense in all the right places to help stagnate Kobe. The blowout loss in Phil's final game reminds of how Jimmy Johnson went out, 62-7 in a playoff loss.
PREDICTION -- Intangibles -- In the March 31 showdown the Mavs became frazzled, then frustrated. Terry lost his composure, shoving Steve Blake in the back before assistant Terry Stotts inexplicably tried to harness Barnes along Dallas' bench. At some point the Lakers will mischeivously flick the Mavs' ear, just to see how they'll respond. Edge: Lakers.
RESULT -- The Mavericks were the better, more mature team. They were composed at the end of Game 1 and -- when indeed they got their ear flicked -- they didn't get rattled when the Lakers got physical.
PREDICTION -- Prediction -- If Game 1 was in American Airlines Center I'd give the Mavs a 49 percent chance of winning this series. As is, it's about 19 percent. Lakers in 5.
RESULT -- Even those who predicted a Mavs victory didn't see a sweep coming. Most important stat: the Mavericks had 96 assists in the series to L.A.'s 74. Dallas' ball movement, and shooting at the end of possessions, kept the pace uncomfortable for the lethargic Lakers. The Mavs: Vindicated. The Lakers: Humiliated.