NBA Playoff Schedule: Odom Starts For Suspended Artest, Lakers Better?

The 2011 NBA Playoff schedule for Friday has two great match ups on tap. Well, at least one great match up (Bulls vs Hawks) and one huge drama known as the Los Angeles Lakers. With Ron Artest suspended for his insane (is there a better word?) hit on J.J. Barea at end of Game 2, the Lakers will start Lamar Odom

With Odom starting the Lakers will lose a huge part of their depth. Already thin upfront, the three-man front court rotation of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom will now be out the window. Matt Barnes might get some extra time but with the Lakers down 0-2 in the series, they aren't likely to use their bench unless they have to.

The three-man combination of Odom, Gasol and Bynum puts the Lakers best players on the floor which is a plus but it's a unit the team hasn't run with much at all in the last few years.

Odom can play some small forward on offense but defensively he can be a liability in most match ups. However, against the Mavericks it could work since Dallas is playing Shawn Marion at the three these days and he's not the speed threat he once was. Odom certainly has experience playing against Marion when he played the four in Phoenix.

The real problem comes if any of the Lakers bigs get in foul trouble. They can't tolerate Gasol or Odom playing less than 40 minutes and Bynum is always a mystery and has averaged under 30 minutes per game this season. He's not a big minutes guy.

The key for the Lakers will be Matt Barnes hitting shots and playing well and keeping Odom and Gasol on the floor. 

For the Mavericks, it's about pace. They need to run at every opportunity and use some different match ups at the three to put pressure on Odom to defend on every possession. There's a huge opportunity for Dallas to use their depth and home court energy to wear down LA and win the game late. 

Friday's Game 3 is at 9:30 p.m. ET / 6:30 p.m. PT on ESPN.

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