2011 NBA playoffs: Lakers-Mavericks series breakdown

NBA Playoff stories you might get from other sources: How the Lakers three-peat is hanging by a thread, how Derrick Rose is proving himself to be the MVP, how the Heat still have 2 of the best players in the league at the same time, how Boston is old, where did the Grizzlies come from?, and without Rudy Gay?, Phil Jackson has a bunch of really impressive coaching stats, Kevin Durant doesn’t shoot as much as Russell Westbrook.

These are all important things. Each of the four series that are being played right now has some sort of interesting story running through it. But I might see the stories a little differently than the regular sports news media. In the next week or so, I’ll briefly pinpoint what I think is the key issue in each of the four conference semifinal series. Starting right now.

For this post, I’ll focus on the Lakers-Mavericks series because it’s one game away from being over. I just don’t have as much time to get my thoughts in as the others.

The biggest story that comes up in this series is how the Lakers are about to end their three-peat chance by losing this an uncompetitive and borderline embarrassing series to the Mavs. All I’ve read and heard is how Kobe isn’t clutch enough or how the Lakers have no defense or how they are choking away these home games because they can’t handle the pressure. But that isn’t the story.

The real story in the Lakers-Mavericks series is that no one realizes the Mavs are a better team. They play better defense, they make more shots, Dirk is outplaying Kobe. Through three games, the Mavericks are just playing better than the Lakers.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle circa 1996

Maybe I’m seeing different accounts of these games than the rest of you since I live in Los Angeles, but the story that gets reported seems to be how the Lakers are losing rather than how the Mavericks are winning. In our fun little fan-worlds, our team is always the only one that has any control overt he outcome of a game, but in reality, there are an entire team of professionally-trained athletes and coaches on the other side of the ball doing all they can to impact the game too. What’s happening in the Lakers-Mavericks series is that the Mavericks are just better than the Lakers right now. But I don’t see this line of thinking represented anywhere. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of the conversation. We need to stop being surprised about it and just accept it — the Mavs are really good right now.

Seriously, somebody needs to start talking about the Mavs.

You might be able to see that for yourself. Even if you don’t watch the games, you could see that any team with a 3-0 series lead is playing well. But it seems weird that no one has pointed it out yet. Changes the Lakers need to make, which players aren’t competing enough, it’s ridiculous how the story has turned into how the Lakers are losing 3-0 instead of how the Mavs are winning 3-0. That’s what’s really happening.

If that explanation of this series doesn’t do it for you, keep reading, because you know I’ve got more.

This series is about coaching. It comes down to Phil Jackson and Rick Carlisle. Phil had a pretty long NBA career that was relatively uninteresting (I think). Since then, Jackson has won 11 NBA titles. Carlisle had a less important NBA playing career, and went through some awfully lukewarm seasons in Detroit and Indiana before coaching the Mavs. But here’s some file footage I dug up that you should consider before deciding which coach has the edge in this series:

Rick Carlisle fires up his team in practice by playing “Prison Rules” basketball.

Honestly, you have to ask yourself how long we could expect Carlisle’s teams to stay out of championship contention with this kind of attitude in practice every day. The footage clearly shows  a hands-on coach who leads by example and hustles after loose balls, sets good screens, and brings an intensity that no other coaches can match. I think this is what gives the Mavs an edge in this series.

When it comes to coaching, Phil Jackon’s passive-aggression and savvy know-how just don’t fire up a team the way Rick Carlisle’s get-in-there-and-show-them-how-it’s-done attitude does.

What’s even scarier? If the Mavs sweep the Lakers, Carlisle and the guys get an extra week to practice like this before the Western Conference finals start.

Keep reading SpreeGoogs for more on this series and the rest of the 2011 NBA playoffs.