The 2011 NBA Playoffs have moved on to the second round, and the Lakers and Mavericks will begin their Western Conference semifinal series Monday night at Staples Center. In many ways, these teams are evenly matched. Both finished with the same record during the regular season (57-25), and both dispatched a pesky first-round opponent in six games, closing out their series on the road.
Both teams at times this season looked like the best team in the NBA. The Lakers were on fire after the All-Star break until a late-season fade, and Dallas had a similar stretch a bit earlier in the season. With Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks were 55-18 this season, a 62-win pace. Nowitzki makes his Dallas teammates better and they are a force to be reckoned with to be sure.
That said, it's hard to pick against the Lakers in this series. They have home court advantage, which is useful since Dallas is 4-18 all-time at Staples Center. They have the big men to at least bother Nowitzki, or at least hold the Mavs to just one shot on offense. There is no quick point guard for Dallas that will dominate Derek Fisher and penetrate the Laker defense at will. But, most of all, the Lakers have Kobe Bryant, for whom Dallas doesn't have an answer.
This will be a tough, hard-fought series, but look for the Lakers to beat the Mavericks in six games, and advance to the Western Conference Finals, again.
For more news on this second-round matchup, be sure to stay tuned to this story stream at SB Nation Los Angeles. For more news and information on the Lakers, be sure to read the SB Nation blog Silver Screen and Roll.