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LAL Draw Warriors on Quick Turnaround

The rare road-home back-to-back rears its head for the Lakers today, with the team landing at about 2:00 a.m. from Portland after a tough loss on Thursday night, and Golden State waiting in Los Angeles for a tip just about 17 hours after the Lakers plane touched ground.

As is typical in the NBA, Mike Brown canceled the regular morning shootaround so that his players could get a bit of rest, and will instead have his squad gather on the early side for the Warriors game, to go through Golden State’s sets and schemes to prepare as well as possible for a team that’s lost three straight to fall to 2-4 on the young season.

The Warriors, under a head coach with no previous coaching experience in Mark Jackson (formerly with ESPN/ABC calling games last season), will be short-handed in this one, since starting point guard Stephen Curry will not play due to a hobbled ankle. The offense will run through Monta Ellis, who took 30 shots to get his 38 points in the team’s Wednesday loss to San Antonio, while rookie Klay Thompson (the son of Lakers radio broadcaster Mychal Thompson, the No. 11 overall pick attended Santa Margarita HS in Orange County) should see some extra minutes in Curry’s absence.

Golden State stars Andris Biedrins and David Lee at the four and five, giving L.A. its typical big advantage on the low blocks, and brings Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown off the bench in relief, tonight charged with trying to body up Andrew Bynum (four double-doubles in four games) and Pau Gasol.

A few other tidbits heading into the action from the team’s official game notes:

- The Lakers won last season’s series with Golden State 3-1 after sweeping the 2010-11 series 4-0 and have swept four of the last six season series with the Warriors. They have not lost a season series to Golden State since they were defeated 2-3 over five games during the 1994-95 season.
- The Lakers and Warriors have met 297 times in the regular season during the Los Angeles era, the Lakers leading 189-108.
- The Lakers are 26-4 in their last 30 games against Golden State but had their 12-game win streak against the Warriors snapped in their most recent meeting 4/6/11 at ORACLE Arena (87-95).
- At STAPLES Center, the Lakers are 22-2 all-time against the Warriors.
- In 55 career games including 46 starts against the Warriors, Kobe Bryant is averaging 26.8 points per game with a high game of 51 points, his 4th highest average among all teams behind Charlotte, Toronto and Portland.
- Lakers guard Derek Fisher played two seasons for Golden State, where he averaged a career-best 13.3 points during the 2005-06 season.
- Lakers forward Troy Murphy was drafted by Golden State with the 14th overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft. Murphy played his first five and a half NBA seasons with the Warriors, averaging a double-double for the year three times in the Bay Area (2002-03, 2004-05, 2005-06).
- Kwame Brown played for two-plus seasons with the Lakers from 2005-08, averaging 7.4 points and 6.2 rebounds in 136 games before being traded to Memphis along with Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, the draft rights to Marc Gasol and first round draft picks in 2008 and 2010 in exchange for Pau Gasol and a 2010 second round draft pick.

Bynum Set for Blazers

As the Lakers get set for what’s always a tricky road matchup in Portland, take a look at Andrew Bynum’s averages in three games since returning from suspension: 22.7 points, 17.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks on 62% FG’s.

With Portland always circling Lakers games on the home calendar, L.A. has managed to win only four of the last 20 contests in Rip City, including a 2-8 mark in the last 10, even as the Lakers ultimately advanced to three NBA Finals. They did manage a split last season, and could certainly use another dominant post performance from their 24-year-old center on Thursday if they’re to get off on the right foot in 2012.

Bynum credited his fast start to an increased number of touches he’s getting this season in Mike Brown’s system, but his production isn’t a surprise to teammates that have seen him dominate practices, especially since he came into the season fully healthy for the first time in years.

“We all know the amount of talent that he has, and he’s really worked on it,” said Kobe Bryant after Bynum’s first 20-20 effort in Tuesday’s win over Houston. “The thing that I like about him is that he has an engine inside of him and he wants to do well. He wants to dominate. He has ambition to be great. I think that’s the biggest positive about him aside from all of the physical attributes.”

Against a Blazers front line that is quite long if not wide, Bynum will again have a major advantage under the hoop. Marcus Camby and LaMarcus Aldridge get the majority of low post minutes, with Camby starting at center and Aldridge sliding inside once Camby goes to the bench, while veteran Kurt Thomas pitches in off the bench. Camby is listed at 235 pounds, Aldridge 240 and Thomas 230, compared to Bynum’s 285. That’s a significant difference.

Lakers head coach Mike Brown said he expects double-doubles on the regular from Bynum, and even if 20-20 is a bit much to ask for, Brown only expects Bynum to improve as he gets in better game shape.

“He was very productive in the thirty-eight minutes he played,” said Brown, who left his center in longer than any other Laker. “His conditioning is getting a little better and if he can ever get it to a point where it’s great…oh my gosh.”

Generally speaking, Brown has been very pleased with how focused and energetic his team has been at practice, but thinks they’ve been a bit sluggish in games, perhaps due to how much time they’ve spent in the practice gym. As such, Brown gave the team Wednesday off, save for the flight to the Pacific Northwest, hoping that his players will have more energy for Thursday’s tip.

Bynum actually struggled in two games against Portland last season, the Blazers going small to try and keep him off the floor, but Brown does not want to see Bynum play too many less or more minutes than 34.

We’ll see how it plays out starting at 7:30 p.m. on KCAL 9 and 710 ESPN radio.

LAL – DEN Preview Pod With Post’s Hochman

Veteran NBA scribe Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post joined us to discuss the home-and-away series between the Lakers and Nuggets set to tip off on New Years Eve in Los Angeles and New Years Day in Denver.

Hochman took us through the Nuggets’ roster, debating just how deep they actually are (including the players currently on Chinese teams), discussed Denver’s 2-1 start to the season, looked at the specific matchup with the Lakers (why lighting-quick PG Ty Lawson could be the key) and more.

Take a listen:

Lakers Draw Kings in Sacramento

Thanks to Kobe Bryant’s game-tying three-pointer with 4.8 seconds left in regulation of last regular season’s final game (a 116-108 OT victory), the Lakers won last season’s series with Sacramento 3-1 a year after sweeping the 2009-10 season series.

At the time, it wasn’t known if that would be the last game at Power Balance Pavilion, questions abounding about a potential move to Orange County, but the Kings are back in the state’s capital with a young, athletic line up that poses a tough matchup for L.A.

Sacramento split its two preseason games with Golden State, getting most of its scoring on the perimeter with Marcus Thornton (21.0 ppg), rookie Jimmer Fredette (16.5) and Tyreke Evans (16.0), all expected to get significant minutes against Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Steve Blake and whoever Mike Brown plays behind Bryant (it was Andrew Goudelock on Sunday against Chicago; Jason Kapono is also available).

Up front, the Kings boast an enigmatic talent in DeMarcus Cousins, who’s skilled enough to average 20 points, 10 rebounds and a handful of assists, but also turns the ball over at a high rate (he had nine in his only preseason game) and has poor shot selection (43.2 FG% is extremely low for a big man). JJ Hickson, acquired from Cleveland for Omri Casspi, was solid after the All-Star break by averaging 16.8 points and 10.8 boards, but he struggled defensively with centers and is more of a natural power forward, where Cousins plays. Whether or not Hickson defends Pau Gasol or Josh McRoberts could make a major difference.

The Kings also use Jason Thompson, signed-through-the-amnesty-clause Travis Outlaw, Donte Greene and Tyler Honeycutt in the front court and rookie Isaiah Thomas and John Salmons in the backcourt.

Last season, the Lakers had remarkable success in home/road back-to-backs, going 7-1 on both ends for a 14-2 mark. With the narrow opening day loss to Chicago in the first B2B of 2011-12, L.A. will look to protect the back end of that mark against Sacramento.

Some additional notes on the matchup:
- The two franchises have met 277 times overall and 113 times since the Kings moved to Sacramento. The Lakers lead the all-time series 190-87 (82- 31 vs. Sacramento).
- The Lakers have won nine of their last 10 meetings with Sacramento, and are 9-1 in their last 10 games at Power Balance Pavilion.
- Kobe Bryant posted his 17th career triple-double early last season (11/3/10) while passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the franchise leader for career minutes in a 112-100 Lakers road victory. Bryant has a
career average of 26.7 points vs. the Kings with a high game of 51 points 1/19/06 at Sacramento.
- Kings forward J.J. Hickson played his first two seasons (2008-10) for L.A. Coach Mike Brown in Cleveland.

Down 2-0 Yet Full of Laughs

After falling for a second consecutive time at home, some may have been surprised to see the Lakers laughing, joking and exuding confidence after Thursday’s practice, particularly due to the team’s subpar play in Game 2.

“Everything will be all right,” said Lamar Odom.

“It’s a game and we know it’s a game and we play it and we play it hard and we anticipate winning in Dallas,” said Phil Jackson.

“It’s not that big of a deal to win two games in a row,” said Kobe Bryant. “Stop acting like you’ve never won two games in a row.”

Of course, there are the stats that show teams losing their first two games at home have come back to win only three of 18 series. Yet the Lakers are 1-1 in such circumstances, coming back to beat San Francisco in 1969, while being swept by eventual champion Portland (featuring Luke Walton’s father Bill) in 1977.

It would appear that this current group of Lakers — even if they didn’t play like it in Game 2 or down the stretch of Game 1 — would cite the 1969 situation before that of 1977, however inapplicable they are heading into Game 3 in Dallas.

All in all, the Lakers know their words don’t really mean anything, and vowed to show what they’re made of in the court. They’ll have their chance in less than 24 hours.

Phil & Kobe’s Lakers Great in Close Out Games

While past performance is no guarantee of future results, the Lakers head into Thursday evening’s Game 6 in New Orleans with a 3-2 lead and a chance to do something they’ve accomplished with remarkable success: close out a playoff opponent on the first try.

The Lakers have closed out 10 of their last 11 opponents on their first try, including winning all four elimination games last season. Three of the four 2010 playoff close outs occurred on the road, with L.A. winning at Oklahoma City in Game 6 (95-94) when up 3-2, at Utah (111-96) when up 3-0 and at Phoenix (111-103) when up 3-2. Then in the NBA Finals, L.A. beat Boston 83-79 in Game 7 when tied at three in the series.

They were nearly as good in the 2009 title run, closing out the Jazz, Nuggets and Magic on their first opportunity, while losing only to the Rockets in a potential close out Game 6, just the third time since 2001 they’d failed to do so, and the only time since Pau Gasol came over in 2008.

Since 2001, L.A. has closed out opponents on the first try 21 times in 24 opportunities, with a 2006 loss at Phoenix and 2004 defeat at Minnesota serving as the other two L’s. And with Phil Jackson on the sideline, the Lakers have won 21-of-28 close out opportunities, and 32 of their last 33 series when having an opportunity to close at any point. The only time L.A. held a series lead and lost came against Phoenix in 2006, when 3-1 turned into 4-3. The last blown lead had come in 1993 (Phoenix).

Considering how difficult it is to win even one playoff series in the NBA, what Jackson and the Lakers have done is mind-boggling even to a coach with four championship rings of his own in San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich.

“The incredible nature of what (Jackson’s) done I don’t think has really sunken in on people,” he said before L.A.’s April 12 win over the Spurs. “To win three in a row as many times as he’s done … as I said the last time I was here, I’ve tried 90 times and can’t win a second time in a row. So for him to do that with two different teams is just beyond my comprehension, and that’s not blowing smoke.

“I don’t know Phil, we don’t go out and have beers, I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve gotten to know him or anything. So I just see him from afar and see what he’s done, and it’s absolutely incredible to me. That kind of winning, that kind of pressure, that kind of persistence year after year after year to get those wins is remarkable. Whatever plaudits he receives once he does retire, whether it’s this year or next year or five years, they’re certainly deserved.”

The top-seeded Spurs, facing a 3-1 deficit to the eighth-seeded Grizzlies, managed to survive in incredible fashion in an overtime victor on Wednesday to force Game 6, thanks in part to some great late-game execution of Popovich out-of-bounds plays.

And while San Antonio will continue their attempt at coming back, Jackson and the Lakers will try and close an opponent out at the first opportunity, something that’s become quite familiar in recent years.

Hornets Historic in Game 1

Losing 109-100 in Game 1 of L.A.’s quest for a third consecutive title was not what the Lakers had in mind, but after a few hours of breaking down film, there was a simple explanation.

“Give the Hornets all the credit in the world,” said assistant coach Jim Cleamons in our LakersTV preview. “They wanted the game, they played harder and they should have won.”

With L.A. not fully invested for whatever reason, so good were the Hornets that you had to look at the entire history of the NBA postseason to match certain outputs:

- With just three turnovers in the game, the Hornets matched an all-time NBA Playoff record established first by Detroit against Orlando on May 13, 2008.
- With his 33-point, 14-assist, 7-rebound performance, point guard Chris Paul became the fourth player in 3,272 previous playoff games to reach such numbers, matching Oscar Robertson (twice), Walt Frazier and Magic Johnson, and becoming the first to do so on the road.
- New Orleans got a ridiculously efficient output from its bench, which went 16-for-22 from the field (72.7 percent), just the third time in league in the last 20 playoff seasons a team’s reserves have combined for that high of a field goal percentage with a minimum of 15 attempts (Milwaukee, 75% on 4/29/06 vs. DET and Phoenix, 74% on 5/6/06 vs. LAL).

New Orleans Hornets: 10 Questions

Complete Lakers – Hornets First Round Series preview.

If you’re looking to go a bit deeper into the New Orleans Hornets, we’re here for you.

Two days away from the start of LAL’s quest for a three-peat, we enlisted writer Jim Eichenhofer to answer 10 questions about the Hornets ranging from Chris Paul’s health, David West’s absence, how the Hornets plan on dealing with L.A.’s size, the mindset of coach Monty Williams and more:

1) Chris Paul appears to be moving better now than he was earlier in the season, but how is his knee and what can we expect from Paul in the playoffs?
Eichenhofer: Chris has said periodically throughout the season that he realizes he’s not 100 percent, but he’s always been the kind of player who is averse to acknowledging the presence of injuries. He says that if he’s healthy enough to be on the court, he won’t use injury as an excuse. Certainly though, he hasn’t shown as much explosiveness or been able to take over games individually as frequently as in the past. There have been glimpses of vintage Paul, as the Lakers witnessed Feb. 5 during a dominant stretch when the four-time All-Star drilled three straight three-pointers in rapid succession at the end of the third quarter. He also had a three-game stretch in March in which he averaged 28.7 points, one of the best scoring weeks of his career.

2) What’s the net effect of losing David West, with Carl Landry sliding into the starting line up and the obvious weakening of the bench? Also, how has center Emeka Okafor’s game developed this season?
Eichenhofer: Monty Williams said on multiple occasions that his biggest concern after West’s injury wasn’t Landry’s production as a new starter, but what the Hornets would get from their backup frontcourt players, so that definitely was a significant question mark. Though the reserve unit certainly was hurt by losing the offensive punch Landry provided, the bench has benefited from a pair of positive developments. Jarrett Jack has been the Hornets’ most effective reserve in recent weeks, averaging double-digit points in March and April. Specifically at the 4, Jason Smith suddenly began playing more over the last five games of the regular season and played well in about 19 minutes per outing.

After a self-described disappointing 2009-10 debut with the Hornets, Okafor has been one of the team’s most improved players. His numbers have always been there, but the impact he’s made this season has been significant. Perhaps the biggest evidence of Okafor’s value to New Orleans took place when he was was sidelined by injury for 10 midseason games. The Hornets went 3-7. Prior to Okafor’s injury, they had put together a 10-game winning streak that tied a franchise record.

3) Former Laker Trevor Ariza has really struggled with his shooting this season, hitting 39 percent from the field and 30 percent from three. Has he made up for it with defense and glue-type activity?
Eichenhofer: The most concrete evidence of Ariza’s impact on the defensive end is in New Orleans’ improvement from 21st in the league in points allowed per game last season to fifth. Williams has praised Ariza since early in the season for accepting the responsibility of guarding the opponent’s top wing scorers. Many people believed the Hornets were the least athletic team in the NBA last season, with older players logging substantial minutes at the 2 and 3 spots. Ariza helped greatly in that area. To his credit, he recently acknowledged that it’s been a frustrating time for him offensively. “Fans here have been great to me, even though I’ve had kind of a rough year,” he said. “They are still telling me to keep playing hard and have been very supportive.”

4) Who guards Kobe? We saw both Belinelli and Ariza on him in spots, and maybe even some Willie Green, with Bryant averaging 26.8 points on 48.8 percent shooting from the field.
Eichenhofer: I’m not sure. Williams has always avoided answering specific media questions about defensive assignments, so we’ll have to wait and see. Like many observers, I had expected to see Ariza defend Kobe almost exclusively during the regular season, so it was surprising when Belinelli guarded Kobe so often. Overall, I thought the Hornets did a commendable job against Kobe, but Bryant always seemed to drain that back-breaking mid-range jumper whenever the Lakers needed it most. I guess that made New Orleans just like every other frustrated Kobe/Lakers opponent in the league.

5) Do the Hornets believe they can beat the Lakers four times?
Eichenhofer: Great question. I imagine you’ve seen Monty Williams’ quotes before the Dec. 29 game, when he wondered out loud if the Hornets truly had the confidence to compete with a Lakers team that has won back-to-back titles. It’s impossible to get inside the players’ heads and know if they’re more confident vs. the Lakers now than they were at midseason, but one thing’s for sure: no one outside of New Orleans believes they can beat the Lakers four times.

6) What can Williams do to try and make L.A.’s major advantage in length dissipate a bit?
Eichenhofer: My first reaction is to say the Hornets should speed up the tempo, but there are at least two problems with that approach. For one, I’m not sure that playing a faster pace with more possessions wouldn’t actually play right into the athletic Lakers’ hands. Two, the Hornets haven’t pushed the ball much all season, playing at the second-slowest pace among 30 NBA teams. It’s difficult to imagine a team playing the 82-game schedule one way and then diverting from the style that got them to the postseason. Other than that, it’s probably a matter of the Hornets taking as many high-percentage shots as possible to prevent the long misses that lead to fast-break run-outs. New Orleans also could emphasis a gang defensive rebounding mentality.

7) What stands out to you most about the current Hornets’ bench? Jarrett Jack appears the best player on paper.
Eichenhofer: Without a doubt, during the second half of the season, Jack has been the bench’s best player. He struggled big-time in the first month or two after being traded here. I kept telling anyone around here who would listen “Be patient. I’ve watched him play with other teams. He’s a better NBA player than what he’s shown so far.” Right around when many fans were convinced that he wasn’t going to help, Jack put together an outstanding stretch of performances. His valuable contributions helped him reach the playoffs for the first time in his six-year NBA career. The bench in general has adjusted fairly well to the forced rotation changes that resulted from David West’s season-ending injury.

8) Who gets the most bench minutes in the front court in this series? Jason Smith? Aaron Gray? Is Smith willing to mix it up in the paint, or does he mostly settle for jumpers?
Eichenhofer: Gray’s playing time has often been based on the matchups that are presented by the opposing team. Since the Lakers possess one of the biggest frontcourts in the league, they’re a club that could cause the 7-foot, 270-pounder to log substantial minutes. Not that I’m comparing the two – and there certainly is no physical resemblance to the clean-cut Smith – but Smith is kind of a Dennis Rodman-type rebounder who tracks down misses and outhustles people for boards. He’s definitely not a bruiser who pushes guys out of the way or gets position rebounds. Smith gets most of his points away from the hoop, though he can finish too, as he showed in the paint during a 20-point game vs. Washington in February.

9) From afar, Monty Williams seems like a really good coach whose players respect what he’s trying to do. Is that a reason for N.O.’s improved defense this year, ranking fourth in points allowed (aided by a slow pace, obviously) and 12th in FG defense?
Eichenhofer: Without a doubt. During the Hornets’ surprising 11-1 start and their emergence as one of the NBA’s most improved teams, players have often been asked how their first-year coach managed to make such a rapid impact. The players have repeatedly cited three things: A defense-first mentality; an emphasis on preparation; and a consistent message from the coaching staff. Emeka Okafor: “I attribute all of the success we’ve had to (Williams) and his way. He’s very organized and methodical. He’s been very consistent – he says something and sticks to it. His game plan was ‘ We’re going to be a defensive team, and this is how we’re going to do it.’ For him to do that in his first year, that’s amazing.”

10) What else should we know about the Hornets?
Eichenhofer: The March 24 season-ending injury to West has made the Hornets less conventional in their lineup usage, forcing Williams to often alternate between big and small lineups late in the regular season. This might make the Hornets a bit more unpredictable and difficult to prepare for, but without West as a go-to option, offensive production is at a premium. “To say that we can (implement any major style change) post-David West, it’s hard,” Williams said recently. “I think we’re going to be re-inventing ourselves on a night-in, night-out basis, because of the situation. Some nights we’re going to be able to go small, some nights we’ll go big. Because of David’s (absence), we have to. If we can be good at different facets of our scheme, it may give teams one or two more things to prepare for.”

Odom, Gasol Look to Limit Love

Such are the offensive skills of Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol that there is often less focus about their collective defense at the power forward position, which has generally limited good opposing big men throughout the season.

With Minnesota coming into STAPLES Center on Friday evening, that defensive focus turns to Kevin Love, a first-time All-Star having a breakout statistical season with averages of 20.7 points and 15.7 rebounds. In Love’s first game in Los Angeles this season way back on Nov. 9, he exploded for 23 points and 24 rebounds in a 99-94 loss to the Lakers.

Odom in particular seemed to have that in mind when L.A. went to Minnesota a few weeks later, holding Love to without a single point on 0-for-7 shooting, which subsequently set off a 53-game double-double streak that was snapped at Golden State on March 13.

Within that streak was a 13-point, 11-rebound effort in a 90-79 loss to the Lakers in Minnesota on Mar. 1, though Gasol’s length and Odom’s activity combined to hold him to only 2-for-10 from the field, his points coming at the foul line (9-of-10).

Altogether, Love’s average of 12.0 points in three games against L.A. is his second lowest against any team, with Sacramento — another team with elite length at the four and five positions — holding him to 9.5 points. Thanks to his Nov. 9 effort, Love’s boards are at about average against L.A. at 14.0 per game, but he’s shooting just 26.5 percent from the field, his low against any team in the league.

Lakers Circle Mavs Game on Calendar

Saturday evening’s Lakers – Mavs game is set to take on even more importance than a March meeting between two teams separated by only 1.5 games in the Western standings normally would, thanks to the 2010-11 NBA schedule.

While each team plays most opponents in their own conference four times, and those in the opposite conference twice, each season there are four teams within a conference that a given team plays only three times. This year for the Lakers, the Mavericks (March 31) and Nuggets (April 3) come to STAPLES Center only once, while L.A. ventured to Oklahoma City (Feb. 27) and Houston (Dec. 1) just once.

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“With a three game season series, there’s going to be a 2-1 winner out of that, so there’s a whole sway as to whether (Dallas) can win the game tomorrow or not,” explained Phil Jackson. “It becomes an important game in the race for positions.”

This because if both teams finish with the same record, whichever team wins twice will carry the tiebreaker, and thus claim the higher seed in the playoffs. In this case, if neither L.A. or Dallas catches the first place San Antonio Spurs (6.0 games up on Dallas, 7.5 on the Lakers), the team that manages to finish second would carry potential home-court advantage were the two teams to meet in the Western Semi’s.

Of course, Jackson was quick to remind that before any speculation about playoff seeding or potential matchups of any sort, the Lakers can only now focus on beating Dallas on Saturday, which they weren’t able to do on their last trip to Texas (Jan. 19).

“Last time we came out really well and controlled the game for the first 15 minutes or so,” recalled Pau Gasol. “Then they made a run and got back in the game and it got away from us.”

The Spaniard’s memory serves him well here, as the Lakers raced to an early lead at 24-16 that they’d build to as high as 10 midway through the second quarter at 45-35. L.A. had been able to convert in the paint on one end, and keep the Mavericks restricted on the perimeter at the other. Dallas missed its first seven three-pointers, in fact, but that would end up haunting the Lakers as L.A. stopped getting out to contest shots only to watch the Mavs sink seven of their next eight triples to trim L.A.’s lead to just four at the half.

It was more of the same in the second half, Dallas adding five more three-pointers, five total from Jason Kidd and four from Jason Terry, to win 109-100.

“We do have to identify the guys that are three-point shooters,” said Phil Jackson when asked about areas of focus. “Kidd hurt us, Terry hurt us.”

The Lakers did not allow the league’s best three-point shooting team, San Antonio, to hurt them from long range in L.A.’s blowout win on Sunday, with only four of S.A.’s seven hits coming before garbage time. But while the general game plan of packing the paint, contesting threes and conceding mid-range jumpers will be employed, Jackson noted what differentiates the Mavericks from the Spurs.

“They’re unique,” he said. “They have a lot of different flavors as far as offense goes. They rarely post up … they have isolations for (Dirk) Nowitzki, but it’s a team that tries to break you down using screen rolls. It’s not about dribble penetration as much as it is about covering especially players like Terry and Nowitzki who are unique in their games.”

The Lakers are aware of two players now contributing to Dallas that weren’t playing back in January, recently healthy Rodrigue Beaubois and recently acquired Corey Brewer, as well as two bigs who weren’t with the Mavs last season in Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood.

“They have a lot of personnel that can be dangerous, they play well together, move the ball well,” said Gasol. “They have a nice, balanced team with a lot of players contributing. That makes them dangerous, but I think we are a dangerous team ourselves.”