The Los Angeles Lakers have made the NBA Playoffs in all but one of the past 17 seasons, and the Dallas Mavericks have won 50 games in which of the past 11 seasons. It is, therefore, stunning that the teams haven't met in the playoffs since the 1988 Western Conference Finals (word to Mark Aguirre). Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki, two of the top five players of the new millennium, have yet to face each other in the postseason. Until Monday, that is.
The Lakers and Mavericks begin their first playoff series in two decades in Los Angeles on Monday, with each having escaped the first round in six games. The teams actually fought for home court advantage in this series until the final day of the regular season; Dallas had an early game it needed to win in order to be eligible for the No. 2 in the West, and win it did. The Lakers needed to win a late game to clinch No. 2 and home court in a potential series against the Mavs. They only did so after a three-pointer with five seconds left by -- who else? -- Bryant sent the game to overtime. That it was potentially the final home game in Sacramento Kings history made it particularly memorable.
Home court matters. The Lakers are 38-5 at home in the playoffs since trading for Pau Gasol in 2008. On the road in the playoffs since 2001, the Mavericks are 19-39. (They are 34-20 at home over that span.) In the Gasol era, the Mavericks have had a tough run at Staples Center, going 1-6. Unfortunately for Dallas, they haven't had much success against the Bryant-Gasol tandem at home either, going 2-4.
We'll see if the patterns hold, beginning Monday. Be sure to follow our Lakers vs. Mavericks hub for full series coverage. For more on the Mavericks, visit Mavs Moneyball and SB Nation Dallas. For more on the Lakers, visit Silver Screen And Roll and SB Nation Los Angeles.