From The Kamenetzky Brothers, Land O’ Lakers: The Mavs’ small backcourt didn’t hurt them as some thought against Portland’s bigger guards, especially on the second units, but the Lakers are a whole other story. It all starts with Kobe Bryant. The Mavs don’t possess a true shooting guard with size who can defend and score. DeShawn Stevenson, the team’s 12th man who became a starter first because of Rodrigue Beaubois’ broken foot and then his ineffectiveness, will start out on Bryant; he typically plays only 13-15 minutes. Behind Stevenson is the 6-foot-2 Jason Terry, an offensive force, and Beaubois, plus under-6-foot backup point guard J.J. Barea, who plays the 2 sometimes next to Jason Kidd. The problem with Kobe then becomes an issue with Ron Artest, because the Mavs’ answer to Kobe will be small forward Shawn Marion, which then leaves the 6-4, 210-pound Kidd to wrestle with the 6-7, 260-pound Artest. We saw that movie once, and the Mavs really don’t want to see a sequel.
From Ian Levy, Two Man Game: The first task has been completed. Despite faltering for a few days, the Mavericks were able to regain focus and close out the Trail Blazers on the road in Portland. In the end, the promise of the Blazers’ versatility fizzled. Only two of the 11 Blazers’ lineups that played more than 5 minutes finished the series with a positive Net Rating. One was The Longs, which never appeared again together after Game 2. The other was the Miller-Roy-Matthews-Wallace-Aldridge configuration. That lineup consistently hurt Dallas, but for some reason only saw 18 minutes of floor time over the course of the entire series.
From Saurav A. Das, Silver Screen and Roll: With the first round now completed; in a manner that could be argued to either be significantly more difficult than predicted or just par for the course; the Lakers move on to the Western Conference Semi-Finals versus the Dallas Mavericks, a team with whom the Lakers have had some scrappy encounters in the past. The Lakers are one seed ahead of the Mavericks, and thus have Home Court for four out of the seven games in the series despite having an equal record. This series has been looked forward to by many; due to reasons such as Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki having never met in the postseason despite spending much of their careers in it, the teams’ equal records, or the scrappy play of their last match-up. It’s been particularly looked forward to by Laker fans as the Mavericks are arguably the Lakers’ preferred matchup in the second round, with Oklahoma City being seen as the Lakers’ biggest threat in the West whilst Memphis served to pose significant match-up issues in their frontline talent and excellent wing defense.
From Zach Lowe, The Point Forward: It is remarkable that these two franchises, both among the NBA’s elite for the last decade or so, have not met in the playoffs since the Lakers eliminated the Mavericks in Game 7 of the 1988 Western Conference finals. This series features three of the finest players in league history and a fourth certain Hall of Famer (Pau Gasol), a devastating young center finally coming into his own and two teams who just execute and execute and execute when they have the ball. Their recent postseason histories and the Lakers’ superior scoring margin mark L.A. as the favorite, but Dallas’ profile shoots up to elite territory once you remove its 2-7 stretch when Dirk Nowitzki was sidelined. The Lakers, with their size and proven ability to raise their game, deserve favorite status, but this is going to be a battle.
From Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: It had been building from nothing except memories, from laboring to beat the Spurs JV lineup to doing their best to give away the Sacramento game at the end of the regular season to losing the playoff opener at home as a heavy favorite, until Thursday night, and the Lakers finally playing like the Lakers again. They also behaved like the Lakers, sometimes unfortunately so, but that’s part of it. That may be the biggest part, actually. They played with a champions’ swagger more than any time in weeks, the way Phil Jackson banged the city of New Orleans and Ron Artest posed and Kobe Bryant hushed. There was a brash certainty and no apologies. The Lakers emerged from their first-round series, in some ways survived it through health concerns and a lack of focus, but this was not just getting by. The 98-80 victory over the Hornets in Game 6 did not feel like the end of the escape from Chris Paul and the rest of the underdogs as much as the start of the push now that the playoffs had finally reached the locker room.
From Billy Witz, Fox News: Matt Barnes listened to the question and smiled. Will you be delivering one of your company’s T-shirts — the one that reads: “Matt Barnes Will Kill You … If Ron Artest Doesn’t First” — to Jason Terry? “You guys are trying to get me started,” Barnes said with a grin. “I can’t do that yet.” If Saturday’s line of questioning left everyone in stitches, chances are Barnes needs some on his tongue as well. At every turn during his meeting with reporters, Barnes had to bite it. The Lakers open the Western Conference semifinals Monday against the Dallas Mavericks, and for teams that have not met in the playoffs in 23 years, don’t think they don’t have some history — particularly Barnes.
From Daniel Buerge, Lakers Nation: After dispatching the New Orleans Hornets last night the Lakers advanced to the second round of the post-season. While it’s no surprise that they are moving on, the fact that it took them six games to eliminate New Orleans did raise some eyebrows in Los Angeles and around the league. The Hornets were a vastly inferior team talent-wise and many expected the Lakers to send them home in four or five games. Whether the extended series will impact their performance in the next round is yet to be seen. The Dallas Mavericks found themselves in a different scenario headed into the playoffs. Many thought they drew an unfavorable match-up when they locked in a first round series with the Portland Trail Blazers. The pundits criticized Dallas even more when they blew a 23-point second half lead in Game 4 at the Rose Garden. However, the Mavericks responded impressively and won the next two games to eliminate Portland.
From Devin Ugland, Lakers Nation: The Lakers first round series against the Hornets did not go as planned. A desperate New Orleans squad led by inspired play from a resurgent Chris Paul gave the Lakers a run for their money. The purple and gold got back on track, however, and put the Hornets away in six games. The Mavericks first round series against the Blazers was very much like the Lakers. Dallas did away with Portland in six games as well, despite an emotional Brandon Roy returning to form to spark a couple of Trail Blazer wins. The Mavericks are also waiting for a key component to their team to return from injury, Caron Butler. Initial reports by multiple news outlets had Butler as questionable for the second round series against the Lakers. Those reports have since been changed, and Butler has been ruled out of for this series. The Lakers and Mavs’ series marks the first time since 1988 that these two franchises have met in the playoffs. There have been plenty of regular season meetings, however, a lot of them filled with fireworks. Just last month, Mavs’ G Jason Terry got into it with Lakers F Matt Barnes and G Steve Blake, resulting in multiple technical fouls, ejections, and a lot of post game chatter from Terry. The Lakers do want to bring toughness to the court, but their focus is to win.
From Jeff Miller, OC Register: The New Orleans Hornets came into Staples Center last round and claimed Game 1 as their own. They lifted home-court advantage, if only for a few days, put the Lakers in a rare series hole, and even played their way onto the cover of Sports Illustrated. Yet, the Lakers’ impending series with Dallas, a series still warming up its hamstrings and trotting through layup lines, already has been vastly more entertaining. For starters, no one with New Orleans called Phil Jackson a “boy toy.” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban did that in January. No one with New Orleans labeled Matt Barnes “The Charminator,” explaining to a national radio audience that Barnes “is a guy who is as soft as Charmin toilet paper.” Mavericks guard Jason Terry did that in April. And no one with New Orleans shoved Steve Blake, with both hands no less, onto a bed of hardwood in the fourth quarter of a blowout loss. Terry did that, too, in March. How’s that for potential storylines … before the first jump ball even has been tossed up?
From Mark Medina, LA Times: On more than one occasion, Lakers forward Matt Barnes bit his tongue. He bit it when reporters revisited Barnes’ episode with Mavericks guard Jason Terry, whose push on Lakers guard Steve Blake on March 31 sparked Barnes to push him back, earn an ejection and ultimately a one-game suspension. He bit it when reflecting on his time with Golden State in 2007 when the Warriors upset the Dallas Mavericks in the first round as an eighth-seeded team. And he bit it when suggested he personally deliver one of his company T-shirts that reads “Matt Barnes Will Kill You … If Ron Artest Doesn’t First” to Terry himself. “You guys are trying to get me started,” Barnes said with a smile. “I can’t do that yet.” Save that for on the court when the Lakers play Game 1 on Monday in their Western Conference semifinal series against Dallas. Save it for the stands at Staples Center where Barnes hopes plenty of Lakers fans wear his T-Shirts sold by Elusion Clothing. And save that perhaps when the Lakers hope they secure a third consecutive NBA championship. But for now, all the intrigue surrounding Barnes and Terry will have to rest with the media, or at least until competition sparks the two to further the animosity even more.
From Mark Medina, LA Times: Those trying to understand the psyche behind Andrew Bynum’s confidence can leaf through the 336-page book that’s sat on his locker room chair for the past 10 days. Anytime he has a spare moment, Bynum has been reading “The New Psycho-Cybernetics,” which stresses positive thinking and details how to achieve goals faster with more efficiency. Instead of wasting time between sessions of treatment on his surgically repaired right knee, when he’s sitting on the team bus or hanging out at the hotel room, Bynum has thumbed through the book, an exercise that shows both his interest in reading and self-growth. “It’s all about strengthening your mind, acquiring your mind and allowing your mind to work for you than letting it run you,” Bynum said after practice Sunday at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo. “It’s a useful tool to get what you want.”
EDIT: If you get a chance, make sure you check out the Lakers/Mavericks series preview over at The No Look Pass. Rey interviews the guys from Land O’ Lakers and LakersNation.com.