NBA 2K11 simulation predicts the Lakers will defeat the Dallas Mavericks in six games
Before you roll your eyes at a video game making predictions, consider that Kobe Bryant has endorsed this video game for its authenticity and attention to real-time season trends. Before you wonder how reliable this exercise is, consider that a simulation correctly predicted that the New Orleans Hornets would take Game 1 of their first-round series against the Lakers with the correct score. And before you wonder why we're not just featuring what the team has to say about its upcoming series with the Mavericks, well, the team has the day off so that means my day consisted of playing video games.
It's a tough job, I know, but someone had to do it. The result: my prediction that the Lakers will defeat the Mavericks in six games en route to the Western Conference finals. The story lines prove rich with Phil Jackson and Mark Cuban racking up league fines, the Lakers and Mavericks benches nearly coming to blows again and everyone at Staples Center wearing Matt Barnes T-shirts to taunt Jason Terry. Click below the jump to read more on how the simulated series went down.
Game 1:Lakers lose, 93-89
Lakers' top performer: Pau Gasol (26 points on nine-for-15 shooting, 11 rebounds)
Mavericks' top performer: Terry (29 points on eight-for-13 shooting)
How the game was lost: Too much talking, not enough doing. The three days of rest and practice helped both teams ensure maximum health, but all that time before the series didn't help matters. That's because we reporters were around stirring the pot, as Barnes and Terry kept talking trash about the altercation March 31 that led to five ejections. It certainly brought a buzz to Staples Center with the sellout crowd wearing Barnes' Killa B T-Shirts, but it only sparked Dallas' reserves.
While Barnes, Lamar Odom, Steve Blake and Shannon Brown combined for seven points, 13 rebounds and two-for-13 shooting, Terry led the Mavericks with 29 points. The Lakers took advantage of their size with Gasol and Andrew Bynum combining for 42 points, but Bryant's left ankle still seemed to be an issue despite the three days of rest. Bryant scored 18 points on a seven-for-18 clip and never had the rhythm and explosiveness he thought extra treatment would give him.
But all these story lines weren't what drew Jackson's concern. The Mavericks shot 41 free throws, including 20 in the final quarter, while the Lakers got only 29 trips to the line. That sparked Jackson afterward to suggest Cuban bribed the NBA so that Dallas could secure the first game, since he was upset the Lakers secured home-court advantage over Dallas.
Game 2:Lakers win, 99-80
Lakers' top performer: Gasol (20 points on six-for-12 shooting, nine rebounds)
Mavericks' performer: Dirk Nowitzki (26 points on 11-for-16 shooting, nine rebounds)
How the game was won: Maybe there really is something to Jackson's mind games. Jackson's suggesting that Cuban bribed officials to secure Game 1 naturally earned him a $25,000 fine and a retort from Cuban that Jackson was simply outcoached. But for whatever reason, the free-throw differential went the other way, which caused Cuban to suggest that the league shouldn't take what Jackson says so literally. The Lakers went 35 for 41 from the stripe, while the Mavericks finished 25 for 30. But this game was never really close. The Lakers simply relied on playing with a balanced offense.
Gasol, Bryant (19), Bynum (19), Odom (14) and Brown (10) all scored in double figures by relentlessly attacking the basket. Though he surely had fun with suggesting Cuban and the league were in cahoots, Jackson had actually told his team at practice that it was shooting too many jump shots and not driving the lane enough, the real reason for the free-throw discrepancy. The formula worked for Gasol (eight for nine), Bryant (seven for seven), Bynum (nine for nine) and Brown (six for seven).
Game 3: Lakers lose, 117-107
Lakers' top performer: Gasol (26 points on 10-for-15 shooting, 10 rebounds)
Mavericks' top performer: Nowitzki (29 points on 11-for-19 shooting)
How the game was lost: This time it wasn't the free throws, though Cuban was also fined $25,000 for his remarks following the Mavericks' Game 2 loss. This pointed back to the Lakers' failure to stop the Mavericks' bench. The Lakers can live with Nowitzki's production considering Gasol has consistently offset it. But the Lakers' inability to control Dallas' reserves proves more consequential because their own bench isn't as reliable. Terry's 25 points mostly came off the Lakers' poor rotations on the perimeter, resulting in his shooting five for six from three-point range. Shawn Marion's 22 points on 10-for-18 shooting and 11 rebounds mostly happened because of the front line's poor communication as he drove to the basket. After a 40-28 second quarter gave the Mavericks a 60-54 halftime lead, Jackson told his team to simply pound the ball inside. The formula worked a bit with the Lakers getting 52 points in the paint, but the Mavericks kept answering with three-pointers, going 12 for 21 from behind the arc.
Game 4: Lakers win, 87-76
Lakers' top performer: Bryant (31 points on 11-for-19 shooting, seven assists)
Mavericks' top performer: Terry (18 points, six-for-16 shooting)
How the game was won: Bryant carried the load offensively, but he was the only starter to shoot above 50%. With symptoms of his respiratory illness still lingering, Gasol had a rare off night, scoring only one point and shooting 0 for 5. Bynum also had a minor scare, remaining on the floor after colliding with Tyson Chandler in the third quarter. The knee brace prevented the accident from significantly hurting Bynum, but he remained tentative, scoring only eight points on four-for-11 shooting.
Since the Lakers didn't have their size advantage at full strength, they simply relied on their defense. Dallas shot 24 for 64 from the field, committed 22 turnovers and made only two field goals in the final six minutes of the first quarter. That set the tone in an otherwise ugly game the Lakers simply had to grind out. It's not the way they prefer to win, but with nothing besides Bryant's jump shot working, the Lakers simply had no other choice.
Game 5: Lakers win, 119-85
Lakers' top performer: Bryant (29 points on 11-for-18 shooting)
Mavericks' top performer: Nowitzki (23 points on six-for-19 shooting)
How the game was won:There's no need to over-analyze this game. The Lakers simply dominated. It took a while considering all the theatrics and chippiness at the beginning of the series, but the Lakers seemed completely focused. It featured balanced scoring from both the starters and reserves. Bryant, Gasol (28) and Bynum (19) perfectly exploited double teams and mismatches. Ron Artest (11 points on four-for-seven shooting, three for five from three-point range) rediscovered his shot and flexed his muscles a few times. And Odom (11 points, seven rebounds) and Barnes (14 points, five rebounds) finally provided a bench presence that was lacking all series.
Meanwhile, the Lakers maintained their defensive discipline. Gasol forced Nowitzki to take many off-balance jumpers. Blake appeared eager in goading Terry into a three-for-13 performance. And the Lakers shut off the driving lanes, forcing the Mavericks into a 26-for-70 clip.
Game 6: Lakers win, 119-91
Lakers' top performer: Bryant (30 points on 11-for-24 shooting)
Mavericks' top performer: Nowitzki (15 points on six-for-16 shooting), Terry (15 points on four-for-nine shooting)
How the game was won: Game 6 really seemed to be a carbon copy of Game 5, a good sign considering the Lakers enter the Western Conference finals against Oklahoma City with four days of rest.
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Top photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, right, drives around Dallas guard Jason Kidd during a game on March 13. The Lakers and Mavericks play Sunday in Game of the Western Conference semifinals. Credit: Mike Stone / Reuters
Middle photo: Lakers forward Matt Barnes is restrained by Dallas assistant coach Terry Stotts after getting into an altercation with Mavericks guard Jason Terry (not pictured) during a game March 31 at Staples Center. Credit: Jae C. Hong / Associated Press / March 31, 2011
Bottom photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and power forward Pau Gasol celebrate in the final moments of a 96-91 victory over the Mavericks in Dallas on March 12. Credit: Matthew Emmons / US Presswire / March 12, 2011