Each day, we are going to preview the night's NBA Playoffs action by looking at the adjustments that can be made by the losing team and showing what they can do to win.
In Game 1of their series against the Dallas Mavericks, the Los Angeles Lakers came out and lost thanks in large part to Dirk Nowitzki. So it makes sense that the adjustments the Lakers need to make involve Dirk Nowitzki, on both sides of the basketball.
Offense: Attack Dirk Nowitzki
One way to try and make Dirk Nowitzki less effective on the offensive end is to attack him when he is playing defense. Whoever is covering Nowitzki when he is on offense should have an advantage when they are on offense. The problem with the Lakers is that they didn't try to take advantage of this mismatch enough
On both of these plays, they go right at Nowitzki (with Pau Gasol on the block and with Lamar Odom attacking on the outside). It is no surprise they they get good looks from this. The Lakers have to be willing to spot the mismatch and get the ball to the mismatch, especially during the start of the game where Gasol is defending Nowitzki (and vice-versa).
Defense: Don't use Pau Gasol To Defend Dirk
With the Lakers' current starting lineup, Phil Jackson puts himself in a unique situation when it comes to defending Nowitzki early in the game. Odom is easily the best option on Nowitzki, but because he is the sixth man, he doesn't start the game off on Dirk. In Game 1, Jackson went to Pau, it didn't work out well for the Lakers:
Here, you see Gasol's discomfort on the outside. When Nowitzki makes the catch on the outside, Gasol is on him, but instead of getting a hand in Nowitzki's face, he keeps both hands low, looking to steal any crossover dribble. With his hands down, Nowitzki is able to rise and fire, knocking the shot down over Gasol.
On this possession, Nowitzki makes the catch out by the three-point line, and Gasol is forced to follow him out there. Gasol is at a disadvantage when trying to defend Dirk on the outside and after a pump faked pass, Nowitzki drives, gets to his spot, and knocks down the jumper.
So what options does Phil Jackson have? Well first, he can start Odom to get the rotations to match up and have him cover Nowitzki for more of the game (when Odom first comes in, it is usually when Nowitzki takes his first break, and Odom doesn't start defending Nowitzki until the second quarter; same for the start of the second half). If Jackson doesn't want to change around his starting lineup, he can try and use Ron Artest to defend Nowitzki. Now, this is far from an ideal situation, but in my opinion, the mobility and physicality of Artest could make him a potential option to defend Nowitzki for anywhere from 8-12 minutes per game (start of the first quarter/start of the third quarter). Either way, Jackson needs to come up with a way to keep Gasol off of Nowitzki during this first part of the game.