Lamar Odom filled in for the suspended Ron Artest as the starting small forward for the Los Angeles Lakers for Game 3 of their second-round series against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night.
With the 6-foot-10 Odom alongside 7-footers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, the Lakers hoped their monster-sized frontcourt would help get them back into the series. It was a tough time to experiment because the two-time defending champions were in quite a bind after losing the first two games at home. A loss Friday night would've put them down 0-3, a deficit no team in NBA history has overcome.
"You try and find a group of guys that know how to play with each other and go from there," Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said about an hour before the game.
Odom said earlier Friday that he expected to take Artest's place, but Jackson played it coy right until he turned in the starting lineup. In their game notes, the Lakers had listed Kobe Bryant as the small forward, with Shannon Brown moving into the starting lineup.
Artest was suspended for one game for slamming a forearm into the face of Dallas guard J.J. Barea with 24 seconds left in Game 2.
Artest had started all 90 games for Los Angeles this season, so Jackson hasn't needed a Plan B.
Odom was voted the Sixth Man of the Year this season, so moving him into the starting lineup was logical — except that he hasn't started at small forward since he played for the Clippers, which was 1999-2003.
"We all know each other, we've played with each other and we know what to expect," Odom said. "We'll just go out and try to win a basketball game."
Odom said he could handle it defensively because "it's not like they play a lot of isolation ball with their small forward anyway." Shawn Marion is Dallas' starting small forward, with Peja Stojakovic backing him up.
Bryant said the bigger issue was not having Artest for 30-plus minutes.
"He's such a physical force," Bryant said. "Defensively, he sticks to guys and he gets a lot of loose balls, offensive rebounds to give us second possessions, steals, knocking balls loose. We're going to miss that energy."
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said he was expecting Odom to play more. Odom played 26 minutes in Game 1 and 31 minutes in Game 2.
"And he's one of their best players, so that could be a positive thing for them," Carlisle said. "I'm sure they'll be fine. Our rotation, we'll adjust accordingly. ... We've got to play our game."