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MARK HEISLER / ON THE NBA

Playoffs could be unrivaled fun for Lakers and Mavericks

Phil Jackson and Mark Cuban love to tweak each other, but the teams have no recent postseason history. That could change very soon.

March 31, 2011|Mark Heisler
  • Lakers guard Steve Blake, left, and Dallas guard Jason Terry confront one after Blake was pushed by Terry as he drove to the basket. Blake, Terry and Lakers forward Matt Barnes were ejected after the play.
Lakers guard Steve Blake, left, and Dallas guard Jason Terry confront one… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)

On one hand, you've got Dallas owner Mark Cuban's motor mouth, his broken-down star and his team, the best money can buy — "but not quite," said his Lakers nemesis, Phil Jackson, who won't even give him credit for that.

On the other hand, you've got "Jeanie's Boy Toy," which Cuban has called Jackson ... not that Phil necessarily took any offense to being a boy toy at 65.

Jackson is also "my bucket boy" to Cuban and Ron Artest the Laker "you want making decisions in the triangle."

This vaudeville act goes back 10 years to the game in Dallas when they ran a cartoon of Fat Albert going "Ho, Ho, Ho" on the scoreboard video screen, zinging Shaquille O'Neal.

Photos: Lakers vs. Mavericks

Talk about your heated rivals, the Lakers and Mavericks would be right up there, but are missing one thing ...

A rivalry.

Amazingly, their last playoff series was the Western Conference finals ... in 1988 ... which the Lakers won, 4-3.

Not that it has been a while, but the Lakers' coach, Pat Riley, didn't like the Mavericks' star, Mark Aguirre, visiting his close friend Magic Johnson in the Lakers' dressing room after games.

Riles finally had Aguirre barred at the door, although that's not why the Lakers prevailed.

Actually, as far as both teams are concerned, if they don't meet this season, that would be great too!

As it is, the Lakers and Mavericks are looking at playing each other just to get to the Spurs.

With San Antonio losing its fifth in a row and the Mavericks splattering on their windshield in a 110-82 wipeout Thursday, the Lakers are two games behind the Spurs in the loss column.

San Antonio's magic number — any combination of Spurs wins and Lakers losses — remains at five.

Of course, if the Lakers finish first, it'll be the Spurs and Mavericks looking at playing each other just to get to them.

Thursday's game started with the usual exchange of insults, Jackson praising Dirk Nowitzki for doing so much with what little he has left after his knee injury.

"You know, he can shoot his shot out of a wheelchair," Jackson said.

"That guy's going to play forever, but he definitely has a limited gait."

In real life, if the Lakers have long been the tallest team around, the Mavericks have been almost as tall and much deeper.

On the other hand, the Mavericks had a center-by-committee of journeymen.

Now they have Tyson Chandler, a major upgrade.

"With him and [Brendan] Haywood and [Ian] Mahinmi and Dirk, that's four guys who are almost seven foot," Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle said before the game.

"Their [Laker] guys, they're tall. They're a little stronger, a lot of them, so that becomes something you've got to deal with. If we've just got to keep throwing bodies out there, we will."

That's what the Mavericks looked like, a lot of bodies the Lakers walked on.

In the spirit of this great non-rivalry, it ended with Jason Terry assessed a flagrant foul for pushing Steve Blake ... Matt Barnes coming to Blake's aid, Matt Barnes-style ... Chandler starting to leave the bench before teammate Brian Cardinal grabbed him ... a disturbance behind Dallas' bench, with ushers bum-rushing someone up the aisle ... and finally Cardinal's swipe at Pau Gasol, upset that Jackson left him on the floor in the closing minutes.

The final count was five ejections (Terry, Blake, Barnes, Haywood, Shannon Brown), of the modern nickel-and-dime variety.

As Kobe Bryant told TNT's Cheryl Miller, "I'm not sure in the '80s those would have been ejections.

"They'd probably have taken the ball out and kept on going."

Of course, by then Cuban would have loved to get the best army money can buy and reduce Staples Center to rubble, but that's against NBA rules.

Or maybe he'll save that for the playoffs if they meet.

This thing is already out of control and it's not even a real rivalry ... yet.

mark.heisler@latimes.com

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