Game 1 Preview & Chat: Lakers vs. Mavericks

Darius Soriano —  May 2, 2011

The wait for the games to come back is finally over as the Lakers’ second round series starts tonight. We’ve covered a lot of ground already – looking at the when the Lakers and the Mavs have the ball – but there’s still some things to look out for tonight in this all important game one. With more on the mind, a few additional things I’m looking for tonight…

*The forgotten “big” man in this series is Shawn Marion. He’ll have a lot of responsibility this series on both sides of the ball, likely spending a fair amount of time defending Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, and Lamar Odom. He’ll be depended upon to be a defensive stopper on the wing and will need to rebound well in the Mavs’ small line ups to ensure that the Lakers don’t rack up offensive rebounds. But where he’ll be just as important is on the offensive side of the ball. The Mavs primary scorers are Dirk and Terry, but in the games that they played the Lakers close Marion was a key contributor on that side of the ball. The Lakers must be aware of him running the floor as Jason Kidd will often reward a streaking Marion with an on time and on target pass to set him up for an easy finish. Plus, in the half court, his in-between offensive game where he uses his good first step to get by a defender and then flips up a floater before the second defender can rotate to him is something to watch for. The Lakers need to lay off Marion (think about how they’ve played Kenyon Martin over the years) to make him a jump shooter or to at least make his first dribble not be one that goes by the defender, but rather into the sagging D. This will allow his man to better contest his shot and also let the secondary big man stay home and grab defensive rebounds rather than having to help on Marion’s penetration.

*The Lakers (as every team) have had loads of trouble dealing with small, quick guards and the Mavs sport 3 of these types of players that fit this description to a “T”. We’ve covered notorious Laker-killer Jason Terry a lot already, but Barrea and (potentially) Roddy Beaubois offer similar types of games. Both of these guys love to attack off the bounce and the Lakers will need to protect against their dribble penetration in order to avoid getting collapsed and having shooters and slashers break open when the help comes. Expect Phil to use Steve Blake extensively against Jason Terry and that means Shannon Brown will spend a lot of time on Barea and Beaubois (should he play). Shannon must effectively use his size advantage to lay off Barea and then challenge shots only when he leaves his feet. The Laker bigs must also be aware of Barea’s penetration coming off the P&R as he loves to keep the ball on a string and not give up his dribble until he’s going to shoot or pass (much like Nash/Paul). I understand it’s difficult to imagine such a small player having such a big impact, but Barea is capable if allowed to run free. He must be marked consistently as he can push the Mavs 2nd unit to another level offensively.

*We briefly touched on the Mavs’ zone defense in our previews but didn’t go into a ton of detail into how the Lakers need to attack it should the Mavs deploy it in the series. As Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook breaks down, the Lakers must continue to run their offense against the zone as good looks can come out of it. The Lakers can not get lazy by simply swinging the ball around the perimeter and then settling for jumpers. That’s what the zone wants, and the Lakers would be doing Mavs a great favor by taking this approach. Instead, the Lakers must make direct entries into the post and to the flash man coming from the weak side in order to get into the gaps of the defense. After the entry is made, the cuts and screen actions of the Triangle will force the zone to move and players will break open for easy shots both going to the rim and in spot up situations around the arc. Odom and Gasol will be key players against the zone as they both have a great feel for space and movement while also showing great chemistry together. If both are in the game together when this defense is implemented, I’d love for Odom to find the creases at the FT line and along the shallow baseline and play some two man game with Gasol to hunt easy scores. If this fails, understand that Kobe can always attack the zone from the top of the key as the Mavs love to run this D with one or both of Terry and Barrea in the game. Against such a smallish backcourt, Kobe can easily go into his back down game, get to the elbow, and elevate for the shot or hit an open teammate when the help comes.

*Can either team make the opponent’s star work on both ends? I’m greatly intrigued by the big man battle for European supremacy (Pau vs. Dirk) and hope to see our Spaniard take it the big German on both ends of the floor. If Gasol can consistently force Dirk to defend (especially in the post), I think it can go a long way to taking away some of Dirk’s leg strength for all those jumpers he’ll be taking. On the flip side, I wonder how the Mavs are going to attack Kobe and his still not 100% ankle. Stevenson is not an offensive threat and if Kobe guards him, we’ll likely see our #24 look like Willie Mays (another #24), playing a lot of center field trying to disrupt Dallas’ sets. If Kobe is on Kidd, expect to see him sag off and make him bury the three pointer, but do so off the dribble ducking behind screens rather than just leaving him alone in spot up situations. If the Lakers know what’s best for them, they’ll treat Kidd like the capable shooter he is when given time and space to set his feet and fire away.

*Speaking of Kidd, the Lakers must try to keep him (and Terry) to one side of the floor in the half court. Kidd has no issues with going baseline and then leaving his feet to hit the cross court wing spotting up, but the Lakers offer enough size in the paint to obstruct passing angles and enough recovery speed to close out on those shooters. What the Lakers can’t do is allow Dallas ball handlers to attack the middle of the floor from the wing as it will destroy the team’s defensive integrity. Discipline must be shown here; this is no time for gambling as the Mavs’ smart guards will make the Lakers pay.

There’s certainly more to cover but in the end, there’s only so much to say as the game will be decided on the floor and not on a grease board. Game one sets the tone of the series and like the Lakers learned against the Hornets, a loss in this first game can mean a hard fought, uphill climb the remainder of the series. The Lakers need to strike first, hold their home court, and instantly instill doubt in the minds of the Mavs. Effort and discipline are needed tonight. Let’s hope the Lakers do what’s needed.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start on TNT.

Darius Soriano

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