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2011 NBA Playoffs, Lakers Vs. Mavericks: L.A. Has Their Hands Full With Dirk Nowitzki

The Lakers and Mavericks open their first playoff series in 23 years Monday night at Staples Center, and L.A. will have its hands full with Dirk Nowitzki. The 13-year veteran averaged 23.0 points per game this season, his lowest output in a decade, but Nowitzki was still remarkably effective. Pau Gasol will have his hands full dealing with the 7-foot German.

The Mavs were 55-18 with Nowitzki in the lineup this season, and 2-7 without him. The fact is, Nowitzki makes his teammates better. Dexter Fishmore of Silver Screen and Roll explains:

The Lakers must take advantage of the 6 to 10 minutes per game he is on the bench. When he is on the floor the Mavs are the equivalent of a 60 win team. When he is on the bench they suddenly become the equivalent of the Timberwolves. The Lakers would be served well to put together six to ten point runs when Dirk is out. If they don’t do that, expect each game to be very tight at the end which is where Dirk’s excellent ability to generate shots for himself and convert at a high rate could swing the series for the Mavericks.

As expected, Nowitzki has raised his game in the postseason. He averaged 27.3 points and 7.8 rebounds in the first round of the playoffs against the Blazers, including 33 points and 11 rebounds in the Game 6 clincher on the road at Portland. Game 1 of this second round series is Monday night at 7:30 p.m. PDT, and will be televised by TNT.

For more news on this second-round matchup, be sure to stay tuned to this story stream at SB Nation Los Angeles. For more NBA playoff coverage, check out SB Nation's playoff bracket and schedule. For more news and information on the Lakers, be sure to read the SB Nation blog Silver Screen and Roll.