Centers Brendan Haywood of the Mavericks and Andrew Bynum of the Lakers… (Harry How / Getty Images…)
Here are three reasons the Lakers would have no problem beating the Dallas Mavericks in the 2012 NBA playoffs.
1. Motivation. The Lakers may have adopted a grinding mentality under Coach Mike Brown. But they've still shown that external circumstances drive them. Whether it's locker-room drama or responding to teams they don't like, the Lakers have and always will thrive on conflict. In this case, the Lakers are still stewing over Dallas sweeping them in the 2011 Western Conference semifinals. That's why the Lakers hardly feel easy about the Mavericks, despite sweeping them 4-0 in the regular season. Should Dallas and the Lakers meet in the first round, there's no way the Lakers would allow any games to slip out of their reach because of a lack of focus. For better or worse, the Lakers' actual effort largely dictates results. In this case, it would be a good thing.
2. Inside presence. Brown and players alike touted Dallas' championship experience elevating once the playoffs hit. That might happen. But the Lakers also have that mind set, too. An assistant coach told me a few weeks ago that he believes a Lakers-Dallas first-round series would be most favorable because of match ups. That proves most favorable with the Lakers' inside presence.
Shawn Marion may have limited Kobe Bryant to 19.7 points on 40% shooting this year through three games. But that's not going to matter when Dallas hasn't had an answer to counter the Lakers' post presence. Andrew Bynum has averaged 17 points on 51.2% shooting through four games against the Mavericks. In the Lakers' past two meetings against Dallas, they have out-rebounded them 96-71. And with Tyson Chandler's departure to New York, the Mavericks have resorted to using Brendan Haywood and Brandan Wright. Bynum abused Haywood in the post, while Dallas has shown reluctance to match Wright up with Bynum much because of his inexperience.
3. The Lakers' weaknesses last season were self-inflicted. As talented as the Mavericks were in the 2011 NBA playoffs, many of the Lakers' shortcomings against them proved to be self-inflicted. The Lakers' problems included a lack of clutch shooting from Bryant and Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol's disappearing act, inconsistent defense from Ron Artest (Metta World Peace) and a spotty bench.
Bryant may face challenges scoring points, but he's not going to face any physical limitations. Ramon Sessions provides a lot more offense and speed than Fisher ever could. There's absolutely no way Gasol will play as badly as he did in the 2011 playoffs. As random as World Peace his, his month-long performance during which he's averaged 14 points and showed improved conditioning will hold up at least enough for him to remain an asset. It's hard to predict what the Lakers' bench might bring, but that'll be the least of their worries.
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