PRE-DONUT: Tonight's referee trio: Steve Javie, Bob Delaney and Michael Smith.
Call 'em fair, fellas. Or in favor of Dallas. Either way.
DONUT 1: That smell, that stench that overcomes you as you enter the room, is what remains of two demons left vanquished by the Dallas Mavericks as they sent the Portland Trail Blazers home after six games. The first: getting past the first round for only the second time in the past five seasons. The second: claiming a victory on the road, where they are now 3-18 in the past 21 playoff games.
Is there Mavs danger here in the sense of a letdown? The idea that Dallas has already accomplished something?
We hope not, and take value in something Dirk keeps saying about the tournament, that it's wide-open … even with the daunting challenge of the Lakers facing him.We heard the same tone from Tyson Chandler at Sunday's practice, the LA-area native talking in tones that suggest he views the Lakers as iconic, yes ... but as an icon he'd like to tumble ...
DONUT 2: This is long-awaited stuff in Dallas. From the start of the Cuban era, the Mavericks owner has barked "We Want LA'' and has tried to bait Phil Jackson and Ron Artest and Shaq and anyone else in purple, all in an attempt to develop a rivalry that's never come to fruition. Until maybe now.
(We do have Mavs fans' Top 12 Reasons to Sports-Hate the Lakers. So that's come to fruition.)
DONUT 3: Meanwhile, as Cuban was making marketing noise above the surface, the Mavs organization has always paddled furiously to find ways to match the Lakers, and to someday have the tools to overcome them.
"You always try to be the best,'' GM Donnie Nelson tells DB.com, "by beating the best. Over the course of this decade, the Lakers are the best.''
There are specifics of that goal in place now.
Since the arrival of Pau Gasol returned the Lakers to perennial favorites, Cuban and Donnie have kept on eye on Los Angeles as they've gone about shaping their roster. The towering front line that includes Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom forms the inspiration that has led the Mavs to employ Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood, among others, beside Dirk Nowitzki.
"It's about time," Dirk said when asked about the impending matchup with the Lakers.
Ah, but it's been "time'' for a long time. … or have you forgotten that Nellie convinced Cuban to acquire Raef LaFrentz due to the belief that Raef would be a Shaq-killer in a huge game because he'd draw him to the defensive perimeter.
It never happened … because the two teams never played in the postseason. Not since 1988, when they last met in the playoffs, have the Lakers and Mavs participated against one another in a truly huge game.
That changes tonight.
But before it begins, let's look back at how these teams handled each other this season.
DONUT 4: Game 1: Jan. 19, 2011, Los Angeles at Dallas – a 109-100 Dallas victory.
Nursing a six-game losing streak, Dallas was drowning in the wake of losing Caron Butler for the season and a nine-game injury absence from Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk had returned to play two games (both losses) but was yet to regain his form when the mighty Lakers, winners of eight of their previous nine, came rolling in.
With their season seeming to crumble around them, the Mavericks trailed by as much as 11 in the first half, and were primed to push their losing streak to seven, but things suddenly changed in the third quarter. Dallas took the period 30-17 and steadily put the game away in the fourth.
With Dirk still not performing at optimum levels, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Shawn Marion arrived to usher in the win. Each of the three scored over 20 points, and Kidd added 10 assists, allowing Dirk to fill a support role rather than shoulder the brunt of the offensive load.
Tyson Chandler provided the emotional boost, something Dallas fans have come to expect with greater and greater frequency from the "heart and soul" of the Mavs' defense, and rendered Andrew Bynum relatively harmless by holding him to 10 points and seven rebounds in 30 minutes of action.
By attacking the behemoth as a group, Dallas was able to end their losing streak and find their sole victory in three attempts against the Lakers this season.
The game would return some of the mojo to the Mavs play, as they would win 18 of their next 20 games.
DONUT 5: Game 2: March 12, 2011, Los Angeles at Dallas – a 96-91 Lakers win.
As much as anything else, this may be the game most remember for the major injury that wasn't.
"I thought I was done, like done," Kobe Bryant said after the game. "I was praying that when I stood up, my foot was lined up straight. I thought I dislocated it."
Looking back, there's little doubt Kobe's ankle bent in a fashion the human body was not designed to bend, but considering the fact that he would return to the game we're left with a situation very similar to what is currently playing out, after Kobe sprained his ankle/foot against the Hornets. Sure, he's limping when the ball isn't in his hands, but Dallas would be wise to leave any mention of the injury out of their preparations entirely.
He is, after all, "The Drama Queen.''
Back then, Bryant left the game with the Mavs within two points, but Los Angeles quickly went on an 8-0 run as he headed for the locker room and Steve Blake twice converted after finding himself unguarded at the 3-point line.
Having returned to health, Dirk Nowitzki scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Shawn Marion joined him in posting a double-double with 25 points and 12 rebounds of his own. Unfortunately for the Mavs, no one else showed up to support them.
Tyson Chandler was a non-factor on offense with only four points, and was manhandled by Bynum, who went for 22 points 15 rebounds, at the other end.
Jason Terry found his shot in hiding as he hit only six of his 16 attempts, including 1-of-5 behind the arc, on his way to 13 points.
Some may also remember this as one of, if not the worst game in Roddy Beaubois' young career. He finished with two points on 1-of-7 shooting, though he did manage to grab six rebounds. Tonight we find out if coach Rick Carlisle is ready to give Roddy B another chance.
As DB.com noted over the weekend with use of this exclusive video, the Mavs staff and Beaubois are certainly preparing for the possibility of him getting a uniform (if not some burn):
Anyway, with that loss, Dallas allowed the Lakers to climb within a half-game of claiming the second seed in the Western Conference.
DONUT 6: Game 3: March 31, 2011, Dallas at Los Angeles – a 110-82 rout for the Lakers.
In a game that could have tied the teams for the second seed with a Dallas victory, they headed into the halftime break appearing to be relatively evenly-matched as the Lakers were up by only three. That quickly changed once the third quarter began and a close contest quickly changed to a lopsided blowout.
Dallas scored 31 points total in the second half, while allowing the Lakers to score 56 … and that only begins to describe how ugly things became.
Andrew Bynum once again had his way with an interior defense specifically designed with him and his teammates in mind. He finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds, recording his second consecutive double-double against the Mavs.
Unlike the two previous meetings, Dirk took the court without any semblance of support. He would score 27 points and take down 13 rebounds to uphold his end of the bargain, but found he was standing boldly … but alone.
The only two other Dallas players to score in double digits were Peja Stojakovic (13 points) and JJ Barea (10 points) as the team, excluding Dirk, managed to hit only 31.7 percent of their shots.
Now, to where all this ugliness led, and what it will be remembered for: Jason Terry's controversial shove in the back to Steve Blake began a string of events that would see five players ejected … though the world may never know why peacemaker Haywood was included in those five.
Terry was enduring some hardships off the court (including a death in the family), and caught in the midst of a poor performance (2-of-9 shooting for five points) he allowed his frustrations to gain control. Dallas fans were clamoring for some sign of fight from their team that seemed to be lying down and accepting the beating being placed upon them by the Lakers.
Was this "fight''?
In the days following the game, Terry would take to the airways to call Matt Barnes, who had joined the on-court fracas late, earning an ejection, the "Charminator," due to the fact that he was as soft as toilet paper, according to Terry.
Barnes responded via his Twitter account to remind the world of how his Warriors had crushed Terry's top-seeded Mavs in the 2007 playoffs, and proceeding to take shots at the entire Dallas team by saying the way to beat them was to "punk ‘em."
To translate his words into our own, Barnes shared his opinion that this Dallas team was easy to beat … if …
Well, if you just figuratively punch them in the mouth. Then you watch them crumble in on themselves.
Perhaps at one time, this may have been a valid tactic. Of course, Dallas fans want to believe that as these Mavs just showed in Portland, they are not those Mavs.
DONUT 7: So, what can we discern from their prior meetings this season?
First and foremost, when Dirk gets help, even against a team as highly gifted as the Lakers, the Mavs can compete with and beat any team.
When he is forced to go it alone, not so much.
DONUT 8: The important second bananas?
Looking at only these three games, you may also say, "How Jason Terry goes, so go the Mavs." Or, to look at it from another perspective, the Lakers may say, "How Andrew Bynum goes, so go the Lakers."
In the first game, Jason Terry was 9-of-15 for 22 points and added seven assists. This was the Terry we caught more than a glimpse of in the Portland series, and it's the Terry the Mavs must have if they can hope to send the Lakers home. In the other two games combined, Terry was 8-of-25 for 18 points. If this is what Dallas gets from Terry, it may be a quick launch into the offseason.
But remember: When we say, "how Jet goes,'' we're not just talking about shooting and scoring. We're talking about borrowing some BBIQ from partner Jason Kidd, too.
Conversely, in the first game Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood neutralized Andrew Bynum, as he scored only 10 points and seven rebounds. Over the next two he averaged 20 points and 14 rebounds while Chandler and Haywood's contributions were minor at best.
Kobe Bryant can get his, so can Pau Gasol, but if Dallas doesn't find a way to coral Bynum they are unlikely to walk away from this series as the victor.
DONUT 9: How to keep up with it all?
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DONUT 10: In MavsLand, it can be argued that on paper, these are two comparable teams.
They had the same record in the regular season. The Lakers won one more home game while the Mavs were plus one on the road. Both are led by 32-year-old superstars capable of taking over a game, and they can both throw strong role players at you.
The Lakers are ranked ninth in scoring offense, where the Mavs are ranked 11th. The Lakers are ranked eighth in points allowed, and Mavs come in at 10th. Los Angeles and Dallas come in at seven and eight in offensive efficiency, and six and seven in defensive efficiency respectively. On paper they are evenly matched, though in the minds of most Dallas will be a heavy underdog.
Did the Lakers cruise through the regular season, knowing they could eventually "flip a switch''? Or are they truly vunerable?
Care to argue that the Mavs, in the case of KIDDIRK certainly, did the same thing? And that had Dirk not missed nine games to injury (as Dallas struggled to a 2-7 mark), Dallas would be the No. 2 seed … or even the No. 1 seed?
Regardless of their statistical similarities, this series may come down to how well the Mavs can impede Bynum, who appeared the be the primary reason for any gap between these teams, and which sixth-man can have the greater impact: Jason Terry or Lamar Odom.
DONUT 11: Mavsellaneous Series Notes …
*Both teams have seven players in their primary rotation of at least 30 years of age, which may become a factor with only one day of rest between each of the first six games.
*Dirk Nowitzki averaged 27.3 points per game against the Blazers. This puts him on pace to have his second-highest playoff-scoring average of his career. His most: averaging 28.4 in the 2002 playoffs.
*Andrew Bynum averaged 16.7 points against the Mavs this season, more than he did against any other team in the NBA.
*The 43.7 field-goal percentage Kobe Bryant shot against the Hornets would be a playoff low since 2004, and the 22.5 points per game is his lowest scoring average in the postseason since 2000.
* Phil Jackson is now 48-0 in playoff series when his team wins Game 1. But again, you already knew that. So dig this: Conversely, they are 8-8 when losing Game 1.
*And you probably didn't know this: Going back to the 2008 playoffs through this year's Hornets series, the Lakers are 12-1 in games where they have an opportunity to eliminate their opponent, including winning eight in a row since the Houston Rockets postponed their demise by one game in 2009.
DONUT 12: Dallas has been preparing for just this situation and for this opportunity for the entirety of Cuban/Donnie/Dirk's time in Dallas.
Now that the situation and the opportunity presents itself, what will the Dallas Mavericks do with it?
Our recommendation for you comes via Dirk himself in this exclusive DB.com video. It's going to be a late night (So late that DB.com is doing FOX Sports Radio in LA starting 30 minutes after the game. ... you may celebrate ... you may drown your sorrows ... either way ...
That's right. Mix in a water.