A win Sunday over the Lakers in Game 4 of their NBA Western Conference Semifinal would be a landmark result for the Mavericks. First and foremost, they would clinch just their fourth conference finals appearance in franchise history. It would be their first series win over the Lakers in four tries. It would also be just their second series sweep. Their one previous sweep was over a potential conference finals opponent, the Memphis Grizzlies, back in the first round of their 2006 Finals run.
They are already the first team to take the first three games of a series from Phil Jackson in his 53 playoff sets, so a sweep would be his first and could send him to retirement on that low note. Tactically, they would give their veteran team extra rest while the youthful Grizzlies and Thunder battle for the other spot.
All of that is attainable today for the Mavericks, but they will have to beat a two-time defending champion that is wounded, cornered, and desperate. The Lakers will have Ron Artest back, so they are back to a full lineup, while the Mavericks have basically ruled out Caron Butler for the remainder of the playoffs.
To knock out the champs, Dallas will have to keep Kobe Bryant in check as they have for the past two games, avoid a full game of domination from Andrew Bynum, and hope that Pao Gasol and LA’s complementary players continue not to step up. With Artest back, the Lakers figure to offer more of a challenge to the Mavericks’ three-point shooters, but will give back a little of the inside dominance that saw their front court trio of Bynum, Gasol and Lamar Odom lead a 56-20 advantage in the paint.
The Mavs have seen shooters step up in each game to help Dirk Nowitzki, with Jason Terry, Peja Stojakovic and Juan Barea taking turns. They will need step-up performers today and could need to lean on Jason Kidd as the Lakers sag off of the one guy who hasn’t hurt them with perimeter shooting.
Tip is 2:30 CDT in Dallas, and the game can be seen on ABC.