Did the Los Angeles Lakers get their only Western Conference challenge out of the way in the first round by dispatching the extraordinary Chris Paul? Or was that just a sample of the drama to come? Did the Dallas Mavericks win their only triumph of the 2011 NBA Playoffs in the first round? Or was that simply a stepping stone to final victory?
We'll find out over the next couple weeks, as the Lakers and Mavericks tip off their second-round series on Monday (10:30 p.m. ET, TNT). The teams actually haven't met in the playoffs since the 1988 Western Conference Finals; that Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki, two of the very best players of their generation, have never had a single postseason battle is something amazing (and a bit sad).
Game 1 should be a tone-setter in two of the biggest battles within this war: Kobe Bryant vs. the Mavericks' defense, and the Dallas frontcourt vs. the Lakers' deep frontcourt. Nowitzki is the best big man in the series, but Andrew Bynum had a great series against the New Orleans Hornets, Pau Gasol is an All-Star and Lamar Odom was the Sixth Man of the Year. Tyson Chandler was a strong indicator of the Mavericks' success in the first round; when on his game, he added another dimension to the team's offense and provided great finishing for Jason Kidd.
Be sure to check out our Lakers vs. Mavericks hub for more on the series. For more on the Mavericks, visit Mavs Moneyball. For more on the Lakers, visit Silver Screen And Roll.