If we've learned one thing from the first round, it's that perceptions can change quickly in the postseason. When the regular season ended, Portland was expected to hand Dallas another letdown, and Los Angeles seemed to be losing its edge. Now the winner of this series will likely be the favorite to advance to the NBA Finals. Dirk Nowitzki played like an MVP against Portland, and the Mavericks showed the depth, resilience and confidence to be a tough out this year. And after a rocky opener against New Orleans, the Lakers rounded into playoff form and shoved the Hornets aside with some impressive defensive performances.
This series is shaping up to be a war. The Mavericks displayed a level of toughness during their win over Portland that they haven't shown in recent years. Just look at their response to the Blazers' hard fouls in Game 6. Obviously these aren't the same soft Mavericks of the past. But in the last two games against New Orleans, the Lakers rounded into true playoff form. Their defense was impressive in the last five games of the series, when they held New Orleans to 85.4 points and a mere 38.4 percent shooting in the fourth quarter of those games. The Mavericks don't look like they have enough weapons to win the series, but they may be tough enough to push it to the brink.