Both the Lakers and the Mavericks come into tonight’s matchup off of poor efforts on their home floors. The Lakers put forth one of their worst efforts of the season in giving up 137 points to a struggling Denver Nuggets team, including 44 points in a fourth quarter where the Lakers seemed to give up. In their game on Sunday night, the Dallas Mavericks scored a season-low 80 points in a 12-point loss to the lowly New York Knicks. Tonight marks the first game of a tough stretch for the Lakers, who play ten of their next eleven games away from Staples Center.
Frontcourt: Dirk Nowitzki, after an injury-filled 2012-2013 season, is back to his old tricks. He is the team’s leading scorer at nearly 21 points per game. Perhaps the best shooting big man in the game’s history is having another highly efficient season, shooting at 49% from the field, 41% from three, and 91% from the line. If the Lakers go with the Gasol-Sacre starting frontcourt again, Dirk will be a very tough matchup for either.
Shawn Marion remains one of the better glue guys in the NBA, even at the age of 35. Marion, who spent his prime in Phoenix as a small-ball four in Lakers’ coach Mike D’Antoni’s system, is an excellent perimeter defender and still has the athleticism to finish plays on the break and around the rim. The center position in Dallas has been a revolving door all season, with free agent acquisition Samuel Dalembert unable to secure the spot. Most recently, DeJuan Blair has manned the position. Blair is undersized, but has an outstanding motor and is relentless on the boards. If the Lakers come out flat, he will surely take advantage. Pau Gasol should be able to exploit a Blair-Nowitzki frontcourt with the way he has been playing of late.
Backcourt: Monta Ellis has been reborn in his first season as a Dallas Maverick. Ellis had earned a bad reputation over the last few seasons as a selfish, shoot-first player while playing for the Warriors and Bucks. Ellis remains a blur in the open court and in screen-roll situations. He comes in averaging 20 points per game to go with 5.8 assists a night. He’s been rather efficient at 45% from the field, but the Lakers are still best suited to make him beat them from the outside and go under screens.
Jose Calderon is having another steady season at the point. The former Toronto Raptor is one of the best in the league at protecting the ball (only 1.2 turnovers per game in over 30 minutes a night) while shooting it at a 45% clip from beyond the arc. He does not possess nearly the matchup issue of Ellis, but the Lakers have to be sure to know where Calderon is at all times or he will burn them from deep.
Keys to Lakers Victory:
Keep Dallas Off FT Line: The Mavericks are an efficient group offensively. They are fifth in the league in field goal percentage and eighth in three-point percentage. Additionally, they are third in the league in free throw percentage. A Lakers’ team that struggles defensively like this one does cannot afford to put Dallas on the free throw line and allow them to get easy points.
Three-Point Shots: The Lakers will need to hit 10+ threes in order to win tonight. A team that lacks a go-to player offensively like the Lakers do needs to make sure the ball movement is crisp early and that shooters get clean looks at the basket. The Lakers hit just 3 of 21 from three against Denver. Numbers similar to that are a recipe for getting blown out in Dallas.
Bench Contribution: The Lakers’ bench that started the season so strongly has come back to earth lately. The bench must contribute in ways other than scoring, and in particular on the defensive end. The Mavs’ bench is not as strong as it has been in past years, so the Lakers have to take advantage.
Dallas Mavericks (19-15) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (14-20)
5:30 PM PST, January 7, 2013, American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX
TV: TWC Sportsnet
Radio: ESPN Radio 710 ESPNLA
Mavs Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Jose Calderon
SG: Monta Ellis
SF: Shawn Marion
PF: Dirk Nowitzki
C: DeJuan Blair
Key Reserves: SG Vince Carter, C Brandan Wright, SF Jae Crowder
Lakers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Jodie Meeks
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Robert Sacre
C: Pau Gasol