Commentary

23 reasons to watch Lakers vs. Mavs

In honor of their last postseason meeting 23 years ago, here are 23 matchups to watch

Updated: May 2, 2011, 10:34 AM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- Ronald Reagan was president, Michael Jackson's "Dirty Diana" was about to hit No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, the Lakers played their home games at the Forum and Andrew Bynum wasn't even a year old the last time the Lakers played the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs in May 1988.

[+] EnlargeJason Terry & Steve Blake
Harry How/Getty ImagesFor the first time in 23 years, the Lakers will face the Mavs in the postseason, renewing a once-heated rivalry.

Los Angeles beat Dallas in the Western Conference finals that time around, outlasting the Mavs with a 117-102 Game 7 victory.

In honor of Dallas All-Stars Mark Aguirre, James Donaldson and 1988 Sixth Man of the Year Roy Tarpley going the distance against future Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and James Worthy 23 years ago, here are 23 matchups to look for when the Lakers and Mavericks renew their playoff rivalry starting with Game 1 on Monday.

1. Kobe Bryant vs. his left ankle -- After Bryant sprained his left ankle late in Game 4, he was able to finish off the first round strong, averaging 21.5 points on close to 50 percent shooting as the Lakers beat New Orleans by an average of 17 points in Games 5 and 6. Bryant claims he's fine, but Lakers coach Phil Jackson said it could take him some time to round into form after three days off between the first and second rounds. "I just don't know how sharp he can be if he has that many days off and hasn't played," Jackson said. "But he'll find a way."

2. Andrew Bynum vs. Tyson Chandler -- Bynum is considered the Lakers' captain on defense; Chandler finished third in the Defensive Player of the Year voting. They'll give each other a headache trying to stop one another; Bynum averaged 15.3 points on 55.6 percent shooting in the first round, while Chandler, at 7-foot-1 and 235 pounds, has mobility that challenges the bigger-bodied Bynum. Said Bynum: "Offensively, he's going for lobs, setting screens, going to the boards, so he's kind of a load defensively because I have to watch him all the time and then watch the ball."

3. Andrew Bynum vs. his injury history -- He said he didn't want to talk about being healthy until he got out of the first round fully healthy for once after he tore his MCL in Game 6 against the Thunder last year. Jackson still won't dare jinx it. "I'm not going there," Jackson said at practice Sunday. "We'll leave that one alone. Is there any wood to knock on around here?" He then looked down at the hardwood court in the Lakers' practice facility and stomped on it.

4. Phil Jackson vs. Mark Cuban -- Or should I say "boy toy" vs. the guy who Jackson says is "easy to tweak." Need I say more?

5. Phil Jackson vs. the city of Dallas -- Jackson's long history of critiques of the Crescent City were chronicled by a New Orleans newspaper and presented in a front-page story under the headline, "Why does he hate us?" Jackson has already started ripping Big D. "Dallas, with all those steers laying around on the lawns in their city?" he said Saturday.

6. Derek Fisher and Jason Kidd vs. Father Time -- At 38 years old, Kidd is hardly what his surname suggests, and Fisher is right behind him at 36. Both have been extremely effective in the playoffs so far as Kidd is averaging 11.7 points and 6.5 assists on 48.1 percent shooting and Fisher is putting up 9.3 points and 3.2 assists on 52.6 percent shooting. When's the last time Fisher has been the younger player in a point guard matchup in the playoffs? "Not probably since John Stockton, Mark Jackson ... late '90s, 2000 ... it's been awhile," Fisher said. Fish's memory isn't holding up as well as his body; he went up against Kidd in the 2002 NBA Finals too.

7. Jason Kidd vs. Ron Artest -- Artest tweeted, "jason kidd so lucky i didnt take him to post yesterday i was like man i want to take him right to the bucket i was licking my chops lol," after the Lakers' 109-100 loss to Dallas in January. If the 6-7, 260-pound Artest sees much of the 6-4, 210-pound Kidd guarding him this series, expect him to take it to the rim.

8. Lakers vs. the Mavericks' zone defense -- The Suns ran a zone against L.A. in Games 3 and 4 of last season's conference finals and Phoenix won both games, with the Lakers going just 18-for-60 combined on 3-pointers (30 percent). Dallas will give it a try too.

9. Chippiness vs. calm -- Things got so crazy in these teams' regular-season matchup on March 31 that Lakers forward Matt Barnes ended up pushing Mavs assistant coach Terry Stotts to the floor following a mini fracas. Barnes vows he won't let that affect him, but Bryant admitted, "It carries over."

10. Steve Blake vs. Jason Terry -- Part II?

11. Bench vs. Bench -- The Mavericks' bench averaged close to 40 points per game during the regular season and Jason Terry was the runner-up to Lamar Odom for the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award. The Lakers' Killer B's (and Odom) will have to be ready to sting against Dallas' deep group of Peja Stojakovic, Jose Barea, Brendan Haywood and Terry.

12. Dirk Nowitzki vs. Pau Gasol -- In the battle for European power forward supremacy! "It's a big challenge for Pau," said Bryant. "It's different than playing anybody else that he's played. Dirk can post up, he can face up, he can handle. Obviously, he shoots the 3-ball. So it's a big challenge defensively. But it's a challenge for Dirk down at the other end, as well."

13. Dirk Nowitzki vs. Kobe Bryant -- In the battle for more embarrassing musical story from their past -- Nowitzki humming a David Hasselhoff tune while he's at the free throw line or Bryant rapping on stage during an old All-Star weekend with Tyra Banks. These types of stories always come out during a long playoff series.

14. Pau Gasol vs. Marc Gasol -- The Grizzlies opened up their series against the Thunder with an upset and Marc put up 20 points (on 9-of-11 shooting), 13 rebounds and three blocks in the effort. If Pau starts off the second round in the same lackadaisical way he did the first, he'll be feeling some pressure from his little bro's upstaging him.

15. ESPNLA.com vs. ESPNDallas.com -- Who will write the better leads?

16. Lakers bigs vs. Mavericks bigs -- L.A.'s strength is its size and length and Dallas has tried to duplicate it by adding the 7-1 Chandler and the 7-foot, 263-pound Brendan Haywood to the mix with the 7-foot Nowitzki in the last season and a half. "You can't win in the playoffs without D, and picking up 7-footers is one of the easier ways to protect the basket and get rebounds," said Bynum.

17. Shawn Marion vs. the Lakers scouting report -- Marion, who averaged just 12.5 points during the regular season, abused the Lakers the first two times they played, putting up 23.5 points per game and tearing up L.A.'s transition D. The Lakers adjusted and held him to just nine points on 4-for-9 shooting the third time they met. They'll have to keep a body on him in the playoffs.

18. Dallas' outside shooting vs. Lakers' perimeter D -- The Lakers were third-best in the league in 3-point defense during the regular season, allowing teams to make just 33.5 percent. Dallas was 12th-best in 3-point accuracy at 36.5 percent and went 12-for-26 from deep (46.2 percent) in their January victory over L.A.

19. Peja Stojakovic vs. the 2002 Western Conference finals result -- A little payback planned by Peja?

20. USA Basketball teammates vs. playoff opponents -- Kidd and Bryant played on the 2008 Olympics team in Beijing. Odom and Chandler brought home the gold together last summer in Turkey. The bonds created as countrymen will have to be put on hold. "It's always a little bit more fun to beat a so-called 'friend' at a game," said Odom.

21. Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle vs. Lakers assistant coach Chuck Person -- Person coached under Carlisle in Indiana and was offered a job to join the Mavericks' staff last summer.

22. Home-court advantage vs. road record -- L.A. and Dallas tied with 57 wins during the regular season and the Lakers ended up as the higher seed by virtue of winning their division, but the Mavs had the best road record in the league at 28-13. Will Staples Center really be a leg up given that L.A. blew its home-court advantage in Game 1 against New Orleans?

23. Phil Jackson and Mark Cuban vs. the NBA league office -- Who will be fined more?

Prediction: Lakers in 6.

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com