Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki, right, drives past Lakers forward Lamar… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
Forget reality shows.
This was the Lakers' version of "Star Search" on Wednesday night at Staples Center … to be continued later this week in Dallas.
Search, indeed. As in the ongoing search to find someone, anyone, with the ability to guard Mavericks forward and 10-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki. Or perhaps, if you are after modest goals, simply slowing down Nowitzki.
Nowitzki has combined for 52 points in two Western Conference semifinal games against the Lakers and it's no coincidence the Mavericks won both. Dallas defeated the Lakers, 93-81, at Staples Center on Wednesday, and Game 3 is on Friday night in Dallas.
In Game 1, Nowitzki had 28 points and he was nearly as effective in Game 2, scoring 24 points, hitting two three-pointers and grabbing seven rebounds.
The Lakers' Pau Gasol struggled trying to defend Nowitzki, but then again, he had plenty of company in Lamar Odom and Ron Artest, who gave it a shot.
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson had said before the game that he did not expect to have Artest guard Nowitzki, calling it "probably unlikely."
Unlikely, though, turned into likely.
Artest had his crack at trying to stop Nowitzki, and the verdict didn't take long to come in: bad idea.
On TNT, Charles Barkley said Artest guarding Nowitzki would be like "Dirk shooting over a chair."
The Mavericks had been talking at practice Tuesday about how the Lakers might deal with Nowitzki in Game 2.
"I'd say from experience he's tough to guard," said Dallas center Tyson Chandler.
"He's a 7-footer and he shoots the ball the way Larry Bird used to shoot it."
Nowitzki, also at practice between the games, talked about having seen it all in his 13 years in the league.
"Teams have guarded me with small, they've guarded me with bigger," he said. "They've double-teamed me from baseline, from top.
"I've got to be ready for anything. Sometimes I've got to go quick and not even wait on the double team. I can adjust. The good thing is we've got a lot of shooters on the floor that can spread the floor for me."
Jason Terry, on whether the Lakers were rattled.
"Don't know. Don't really care."
"I wouldn't say they're vulnerable. They're still the champs."