Lakers-Mavericks matchup: Five things to watch

Some things to watch when the Lakers host the Dallas Mavericks Sunday (12:30 p.m.) at Staples Center.

1. The Lakers will play with plenty of motivation. For all of the maddening inconsistency the Lakers have shown this season, there’s still one thing that’s stayed the same: The Lakers have played with effort against teams they don’t like, including the Boston Celtics, Clippers and the Dallas Mavericks. Part of the Lakers’ three-game regular-season sweep thus far against Dallas reflects the purple and gold’s superior personnel. But the Lakers also fell in four games to Dallas in the 2011 Western Conference semifinals.

The Lakers shouldn’t just assume they’ll sweep the season-series Sunday. Dallas should have plenty of pride. But the Lakers’ motivation could largely determine the outcome. It appears the Lakers have established momentum with two key wins against playoff teams in San Antonio and Denver. Meanwhile, the Mavericks’ last two road wins featured second-half collapses against Portland and Golden State.

2. Dallas will probably throw the kitchen sink at Andrew Bynum. He’s become used to this routine by now. Bynum maintains he saw the most double and triple teams thus far against Dallas. With Lakers guard Kobe Bryant likely out of the lineup for the fifth consecutive game because of a sore left shin, it’s likely Dallas will employ that even more.


Still, Dallas hardly has the personnel on paper to stop Bynum. Brendan Haywood has recently seen declining minutes, while Brandan Wright has averaged 13.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in the last four game. Bynum, who has averaged 15 points on 64.3% shooting in three games against Dallas, had no problems brushing past Haywood. Meanwhile, Wright will prove to be too inexperienced in countering Bynum’s post moves.

That’s why it shouldn’t be surprising if Dallas throws everything at him, including constant switching between Haywood and Wright, Dirk Nowitzki or maybe even Shawn Marion. Should that happen, Bynum and teammate Ramon Sessions should just remain patient in reposting and passing out of such coverages.

3. Ramon Sessions should have a bounce-back performance. It shouldn’t be too worrisome that Sessions had a poor outing Friday against Denver, where he had seven points on one-of-seven shooting, six assists and three turnovers. Even if Sessions is trying to balance between playing at a high tempo and ensuring the Lakers don’t make offensive mistakes, he’s largely helped the Lakers improve their offensive efficiency since his March 15 trade to L.A.

It’s also possible Sessions will see some relief in his defensive assignment. Jason Kidd has recorded career lows in points (six), shooting percentage (35.1%) and assists (5.4). He still remains effective, particularly as a 39-year-old. But it’s possible Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle will limit his minutes. Kidd played only 25 on Friday against Portland, and the Mavericks, beginning Sunday, play five games in seven days.


4. Pau Gasol vs. Dirk Nowitzki. No matter what Gasol did, nothing could stop Nowitzki’s one-legged fallaways of the 2011 Western Conference semifinals. That’s proved to be a much different story this season, where Gasol has held Nowtizki to 24 points on 43.5% shooting. It’s possible Gasol will fare even better on the fourth go-around considering Nowitzki has averaged 21.1 points on 46.6% shooting. The Dallas forward will score points. But as long as Gasol makes him work hard for his shots at the expense of a balanced offense, the Lakers will be in good shape.

5. Will Metta World Peace abuse Shawn Marion? The Lakers forward lamented the missed opportunity in last season’s playoffs to “abuse” Marion. He will have that chance Sunday. World Peace has improved his conditioning and health. He’s averaged 14.2 points on 52.4% shooting in April. Marion’s a more-than-capable defender, so it remains to be seen how this will play out. But it’ll sure be entertaining.
*On a side note, I’m curious if Lamar Odom shows up to the game. His former publicist was at the Lakers-Nuggets game Friday. Odom’s reportedly in Los Angeles. And of course, nothing would add more spice to Khloe and Lamar than to see a game that features one team that traded him (Los Angeles) and one team that sent him to the inactive roster (Dallas).

Of course, the media, including myself, will try to talk to Odom if he’s there. But it’s not a good idea for him to show up. World Peace says a lot of goofy things. But he was on point when he told reporters, “It’s too much controversy and everything. It’s probably best that he stay out of the public.”


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