This Wednesday we have a matchup of two of the best teams in the Western Conference when the Los Angeles Lakers travel to Dallas to take on Dirk Nowitzki and the revamped Mavericks. Kobe Bryant will be back in action after sitting out for the last couple of weeks for this possible preview of a playoff series.
Los Angeles Lakers (42-14, 1st in Western Conference) @ Dallas Mavericks (36-21, 4th in Western Conference)
NBA odds (*note lines are approximations as they have not been posted at the time of writing)
Spread: Even (0)
Money Lines: Off
Why LA will win
The Lakers had to play without Kobe Bryant for the last five games. They did not slow down without him going 4-1 with their only loss coming against Boston, and it was a one point loss (87-86 in LA). That being said, having Kobe back is just going to make them better. Kobe is having another fantastic year averaging 28 points, 4.6 assists and 5.3 rebounds a game. Kobe will get a chance to shake the rust off against the sliding Grizzlies Tuesday night before this big game in Dallas. LA's twin towers attack of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum is devastating to most teams, especially ones that lack interior size. Gasol has shown he is one of the best in the game averaging 17.2 points and 11.4 rebounds a game. Gasol's experience and skill are perhaps more irrerplaceable than Kobe's production on this team. F Lamar Odom is still among the league's best per minute performers and can either start or come off the bench as a sixth man and dominate. Odom is too good all on his lonesome for some teams to handle. With Ron Artest's defensive prowess hanging tough at SF, teams without blazing quickness have trouble scoring against the Lakers. If there was a weakness to the reigning champions, it is the point guard position. Derek Fisher appears to have already retired, although he doesn't know it yet and Jordan Farmar has improved, but still lacks defense and consistency from three point range (36.5%). Neither of the two can play defense and any team with a speedy point guard will see tremendous production from that player. The Mavs however do not have a speedy point guard (Jason Kidd) and will not be able to exploit the weakness of the Lakers.
Why Dallas will win
If the Mavericks are to be contenders this year for the championship, they are going to have to win games like this. Before the trade deadline Dallas dumped Josh Howard and Drew Gooden and got back Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood (and the corpse of DeShawn Stevenson). Butler is an athletic G/F that can get to the hoop and create his own shot. He will be guarding Kobe in this game and will have his hands full, but he will be an improvement over Josh Howard. C Brendan Haywood is the defensive juggernaut that Dallas needed. The center averages over 10 rebounds and 2 blocks a game and will have big responsibilities in this one against the Lakers' tandem of big men. F Dirk Nowitzki has had an MVP like season for the Mavericks averaging 24.7 points and 7.6 rebounds a game. A closer look behind those numbers reveals that Dirk's style of play is problematic for defenders as he has unlimited range and can get his shot at will with his seven foot frame. Expect Gasol to have to play a bit out of position covering Dirk and Artest to try to take away Dirk on the perimeter. Either way Dirk has the advantage and Bynum vs. Haywood should be a wash. Expect to see F Shawn Marion, who has been a shot in the arm for the Mavs on defense and perennial sixth man of the year candidate G Jason Terry step up and hit key shots and play solid defense. Surefire hall of fame PG Jason Kidd will have an easy time with Fisher and Farmar and the Dallas offense at home should be in full effect.
Betting Tips: Prediction
The Lakers are back to full strength and the Mavs made all the right moves at the deadline. These two teams are throwing their best lineups at each other and this game will have a playoff atmosphere about it. Expect this one to be close throughout, and maybe go to overtime. In the end, I like Dirk to win this one for the home crowd as the Mavs knock off the Lakers.
Final: Dallas 108 – LA 107 OT
Sportsbook review : This is a stay away game. You might as well flip a coin if you want to bet on this one.