Dallas Mavericks: Champs Can Make Huge Statement Against Lakers

Danny WebsterAnalyst IIIApril 14, 2012

DALLAS, TX - JANUARY 04:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts after scoring against the Phoenix Suns at American Airlines Center on January 4, 2012 in Dallas, Texas. Nowitzki was playing in his 1,000 career game.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Questions will be answered one way or another on Sunday.

The Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers face off for the fourth time this year on Sunday when the defending NBA Champions head to Staples Center, in perhaps what could be the biggest game of the year thus far for both teams' positioning in the playoffs.

Currently, the Lakers hold the No. 3 seed with a one-game lead over their Staples Center neighbors, the Los Angeles Clippers. The Mavs hold a 1.5-game lead over the Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets for the No. 6 seed, and trail the Memphis Grizzlies by one game for the five spot.

Oh, how I love potential playoff matchups late in the season.

And how ironic would it be if the Lakers could sweep the season series against the team that swept them out of the postseason last year?

But that's what we love about the game of basketball. And as it would seem, the Mavs are loving the way they're playing basketball right now, currently on a three-game winning streak that's began since Lamar Odom was sent home for the rest of the year.

That recent winning streak hasn't come easy by any stretch, and hasn't looked impressive in the least. Dallas took care of the Sacramento Kings rather easily, but have struggled (once again) to close out teams that need to be put down for the count. The Golden State Warriors and Portland Trailblazers have come rather close to making the Mavs look like the joke of the league by both coming back from fourth quarter double-digit deficits.

Three wins against three mediocre teams doesn't spell wonderful things to a good majority.

But a win against the Lakers? There's something that will send shock waves around the league.

It's not going to say that Dallas will win and carry as much momentum as humanly possible through the playoffs and dominate. At the end of the day, win or lose, they will still hold the No. 6 seed and won't be picked by most to win another championship.

But for a team who has shockingly struggled on the road this year, a win against a team you may face in the first round of the playoffs could only escalate the confidence that might be peaking right now.

And it could also answer the biggest question of all: Was Odom the reason why this team couldn't win for a good portion of the year?

That will more than likely be answered, as well.

Not only could this be a good way to make a statement as a team, but Shawn Marion has a chance to make a statement as to why he should be Defensive Player of the Year when these 66 games are finished.

In two games against Kobe Bryant this year, The Matrix has limited Kobe Bean to a combined 11-for-37 shooting performance with 29 points. In the 16-point loss that Marion was out for the game, Kobe went off and scored 30 by doing what Kobe's done for most of his career: Making it look easy.

This is all depending, of course, if Bryant will be able to play on Sunday.

This game is going to come down to the frontcourt play for both teams, but the Mavs need to make Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol work hard all game long. The trio of Brendan Haywood, Ian Mahinmi and Brandan Wright will have their hands full on the defensive end in stopping the L.A. All-Stars and must do so if they want a chance to win.

And if Dirk Nowitzki can keep up with hist 24-point average that he's amounted in the three games against the Lakers, it'll be an easy night for the "ReDirkulous" one.

Dallas won't be guaranteed a championship if they win this game by any stretch. But the talks will start coming around of them being a dangerous team in the playoffs if they face the Lakers, or possibly the Clippers in the first round.

If not, they'll be labeled for who they truly are: the sixth best team in the West.