Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has made it no secret that every move he has made over the past couple seasons was made with the Lakers in mind. In order to be the best, you have to beat the best, and now the Dallas Mavericks have an opportunity to send Phil Jackson off into the Montana sunset still in search of a coveted fourth Three-Peat.
The Mavericks and the Lakers square off tonight for their first playoff matchup since Andrew Bynum was six months old and emotions for both clubs will undoubtedly run high, considering their recent history.
Five players were ejected in their most recent matchup on March 31, a 110-82 blowout victory for the Lakers. Thus far, both sides have remained civil through the media, but we can certainly expect all common courtesy to be replaced with some serious playoff intensity on the bright stage tonight inside the Staples Center. All of Hollywood's finest will be in attendance to witness the premiere of the best show in Tinsel Town.
I've thought long and hard about this series, and every time I watch it play out in my mind, I come up with the same result...Lakers in five. I saw something happen in Game 6 against the Hornets that I hadn't seen from this Lakers team since the 2010 playoffs; the light switch had finally flipped on.
You could see it all the player's faces; they looked mean, they looked angry and they looked upset because someone was trying to take something away from them. Something that belonged to them; something that they were not ready to give up. Lakers fans have been waiting for nearly a year to see that look in their face, and finally, last Thursday night, that look had arrived.
I could fill this article up with all kinds of stats that will point to a Lakers victory in this series, but I'm not going to, because in the end, stats are essentially meaningless. At this point in the NBA season, the only thing that matters is which team wants it more. Which team has that burning desire from within that won't let them quit until the task at hand is finished.
This Lakers team has been that team for the past two years and people were beginning to wonder if they were still that same team, if they still had that same burning desire. And finally, they showed the world they still do, they are still that same team, and now you can hear it in their voices when they speak that nothing else in the world matters to them until their mission is complete.
So when I say in the title of this article that the Mavericks are no match for the Lakers, this is why.
The Mavericks essentially have just as much talent, just as much size and just as much depth as the Lakers do. But they don't know how to get past this point, they don't know what it takes because they haven't felt it before, they haven't felt what it's like to get this close, and what it takes to overcome the adversity every team has to face in order to win a title.
The Lakers meanwhile, are seeking their fourth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. The NBA hasn't seen a team like this since Larry Bird's Celtics went to the Finals four straight times from 1983-1987, winning two and losing two. If this Lakers team raises the Larry O'Brien trophy again in June, they will go down as the better team historically. Kobe Bryant will surpass everyone in the world not named Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson will head off into the Montana sunset once and for all, as the greatest coach in the history of professional sports.
I know this article is different from every article I have ever written in the past that are always based on statistics. But after thinking long and hard about this series and the drama that's about to unfold, it finally hit me.
It's not about the stats anymore, it's simply about a group of guys who are led by a player that wants to win so bad it burns inside and it pains him to lose. All he cares about is winning, and nothing else matters. He doesn't care about home court advantage, he doesn't care about a sprained ankle, he doesn't care about his age, he only cares about one thing and one thing only—winning.