Photo by Stephen Dunn | Getty Images

It’s April 14, 2012 and the (38-22) Los Angeles Lakers are set to battle the (34-26) Dallas Mavericks. Friday’s win against the Denver Nuggets secured a playoff spot for the Lakers, their 59th playoff berth in 64 seasons. The Lakers are 3-1 with Kobe Bryant sidelined, including three straight.

The combination of Andrew Bynum & Pau Gasol inside and Matt Barnes & Metta World Peace on the perimeter led the Lakers to the win over the Nuggets. The Lakers have six games remaining in the regular season, four with a record above .500.

The Lakers are currently leading the Pacific Division, in sole possession of the 3rd seed in the Western Conference Playoffs, the L.A. Clippers are right on their heals, one game behind them, in the Pacific Division.

The Dallas Mavericks hold the sixth seed in the Playoffs. If the playoffs started today, these teams would meet, again (as the 3-6 match up) with the Lakers having the home court advantage, again. The Lakers lead the season series against the Mavericks 3-0, after taking the season series last year 2-1.

The last time the Lakers lost a season series to the Dallas was in the 2006-2007 season (1-3); their first series loss to the Mavericks was in the 1986-1987 season. The Lakers are 7-3 in their last 10 games overall against the Mavericks and have won the last five straight. The Lakers are 19-4 all-time against the Mavericks at the Staples Center and 8-2 in their last 10 home games.

The Dallas Mavericks are 2-0 on their west coast road trip. L.A. is seeking a season sweep of Dallas. This game is important for playoff positioning, maintaining momentum and confidence. The Mavericks are a very dangerous team; Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry have to be contained. The Mavericks have a lot of depth and one of the most productive benches in the league.

The Lakers will be playing their fifth game without Kobe Bryant and his teammates are stepping their game up and playing better as a unit. Kobe Bryant needs to be given the time to heal. The goal is for Bryant to healthy for the post season.

The Lakers have had a desire to rest Bryant for a while and the slow recovery from injury has made that possible. Point production from the small forward position has been an issue all season, but Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes have stepped their game up and eliminated the issue.

The key to every game for the Lakers is their defense. L.A. has to do a solid job defending the pick-and-roll play, stop the dribble penetration of the guards, control the tempo, get back in transition, control the boards and quickly rotate out to open shooters.

Dallas is a team that looks to shoot from behind the arc the perimeter defense has to be solid.

The Lakers will be successful using the combination of Andrew Bynum & Pau Gasol inside and Matt Barnes & Metta World Peace on the perimeter. L.A. has to have solid ball movement, good player movement, win the points in the paint battle, limit their turnovers and limit the Mavericks opportunities to score second-chance points.

Starters
Lakers: R. Sessions, D.Ebanks, M. Peace, P.Gasol, A. Bynum
Mavericks: J. Kidd, R. Beaubois, V. Carter, D. Nowitzki, B. Haywood

Tip-off: 12:30 PM PST

Television -

  • Los Angeles: ABC & ESPN
  • Dallas: ABC & ESPN

Radio -

  • Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (John Ireland & Mychal Thompson)
  • Dallas: ESPN 103.3 (Chuck Cooperstein)

Injuries -

Lakers:

  • Kobe Bryant (Tenosynovitis, Left Shin) Out
  • Andrew Bynum (Sprained Left Ankle) Probable
  • Jordan Hill (Sprained MCL, Right Knee) Questionable
  • Ramon Sessions (Sprained Left Shoulder, AC Joint) Probable

Mavericks:

  • Jason Kidd (Groin) Day-to-Day