The Los Angeles Lakers are riding high on a three-game winning streak, which has brought their record to four wins and three losses in the 2016-17 NBA season. The team has looked much better than they were projected to heading into the season, surprising fans and media pundits alike. At this juncture, the Lakers are currently 12th in the league in Offensive Rating and 17th in defensive rating, both of which represent a big step up from last season.
They will look to push their win streak to four games in a row on Tuesday night against an old foe in the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks, however, will be without star power forward Dirk Nowitzki, who will be out nursing a sore Achilles. Nowitzki and the Mavericks’ medical staff opted to shut down the aging All-Star rather than risk a lingering issue, via ESPN’s Tim MacMahon:
“It gets better on days off, and as soon as I go out there and try to push off, try to show on pick-and-rolls, run backwards, all that stuff is just uncomfortable and sore,” Nowitzki told reporters. “So just thought I’d just shut it down. I mean, it makes no sense to keep dragging this for weeks, you know? Obviously, it hasn’t really gotten better, so we’re going to take a few days off and not get on the court, not do all the stuff that makes it sore. And hopefully, I’ll be better in a couple days and we can ramp it back up.”
While Nowitzki is hoping to only miss a short amount of time, the injury will require him to sit out against the Lakers. Dallas played without him on Sunday, using primarily small forwards like Justin Anderson and Dorian Finney-Smith to help fill in, while Harrison Barnes took over much of the scoring load.
For the Lakers, Nowitzki’s absence will provide a different challenge for Julius Randle, who fared well against the big German last season, but struggled to deal with his shooting ability. Instead, Randle will likely be matched up with smaller, faster players, which will require him to get onto the low block and use his size advantage whenever possible. It will also test Randle’s ability to defend on the perimeter, something he has shown improvement at this season.
For their part, the Lakers will also be without the services of Larry Nance Jr., who suffered a concussion against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday.