After a mediocre first four games of the NBA Playoffs against the New Orleans Hornets, the Los Angeles Lakers took care of business Thursday night, defeating the Hornets, 98-80, and advancing into the second round. When the day was finally said and done, the Lakers second round opponent was set, as the Dallas Mavericks finished off the Portland Trailblazers in 6 games, setting up a second round meeting with the defending NBA champs. With both teams getting a few days off before Monday’s series opener, it is time to take a look at the season series between the two teams, and how the Western Conference foes stack up. The Lakers took the season series, 2-1, after dropping the Jan. 19 matchup, 109-100, but this playoff matchup will spotlight two of the great players in the history of the NBA in Kobe Bryant and Jason Kidd, not to mention the international matchup in Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki, the center matchup between Andrew Bynum and Tyson Chandler. But let’s not forget about the matchup of the 6th man between Lamar Odom and Jason Terry. With the series starting tonight, let’s take a look at the matchups
- Derek Fisher v Jason Kidd
- These two are no strangers to playoff battles, and with both of their careers nearing an end, neither wants to ride into the sunset on a losing note. Kidd is 38, but has not stopped playing as he did when he broke into the league, averaging 11.7 points and 6.5 assists through the first round. Fisher is averaging 9.3 points on 52.6 percent shooting. This matchup will come down to who helps his team more as far as setting up the offense and denying the opposing guard dribble penetration.
- Kobe Bryant v Dallas guards
- The Mavericks start DeShawn Stevenson, but have Jason Terry coming off the bench. But as everyone knows, it does not matter who is guarding Kobe, he is going to get involved in the offense one way or another.
- Ron Artest v Shawn Marion
- This is a great matchup, especially after Artest felt like the Hornets didn’t think he could produce offensively. But Marion has seen the Lakers a lot over his career. Earlier in the season, Marion averaged 23.5 against the Lakers in the first two games, but the L.A. defense stepped up in the third game, shutting down Marion as he scored 9 points. Either player can show up at any time, but one needs to step up more in order for his team to advance
- Pau Gasol v Dirk Nowitzki
- This is the international matchup that will spotlight this series around the world, as Germany and Spain go head to head. Nowitzki is one of the purest shooters in the history of the NBA, and Gasol brings a lot of different things to the table for the Lakers. But this is the first time Dirk has seen the Lakers in the playoffs, and will look to get back to the NBA Finals after a disappointing exit to the 2006 season, when the Mavericks lost to the Miami Heat, 4-2, after taking a 2-0 lead.
- Andrew Bynum v Tyson Chandler
- This is the matchup that a lot of NBA fans are looking forward to. Chandler and Bynum both came into the league right out of high school. Both of these centers are huge defensively for their teams, and both of them need to have huge series’ in order for their team to advance. Bynum is playing some of the best playoff basketball of his 6-year career, especially because he has been healthy, and Chandler, brought in for defensive purposes, is looking to advance deeper into the playoffs for the first time in his career.
- L.A. Bench v Dallas Bench
- The Mavericks have Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic coming off the bench, and both are capable of changing the momentum of the game in an instant. But the Lakers have Lamar Odom, this year’s 6th man of the year, and the Lakers go as Lamar goes. Behind Odom, the Lakers have Steve Blake, Shannon Brown and Matt Barnes. If this series comes down to depth, the Lakers have the advantage
- Phil Jackson v Rick Carlisle
- Phil is looking to continue to compete for his 12th NBA title, as Carlisle is looking for his first. If this game comes down to coaching adjustments, Jackson holds the upper hand, especially since he has been entrenched in the playoffs almost every year of his 20-year coaching career.
There are no gimmes in the playoffs, and this second round series will be vital to either team looking to advance past the conference finals, as both teams have the length to bother any other NBA foe. The series begins in Los Angeles for the first two before heading back to Dallas for games three and four. After dropping the first game to New Orleans and playing even with the Hornets for the first four, the Lakers know that they cannot come into this series unmotivated, as the Mavericks are a team of seasoned veterans, all looking to end the Lakers reign as two-time defending NBA Champions and stamp their own ticket to the next round.