The Lakers look to continue to win without their star Kobe Bryant against Dallas. The Lakers are 3-1 without Kobe in the lineup. Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes have drastically improved their game within the last week, and Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum have stepped up their contribution on the court. Despite publicly parting ways with former Laker Lamar Odom, the Dallas Mavericks have won three consecutive games, just as the Lakers have. If the postseason started today, the Lakers would face the Mavs in the first round. The Lakers are 3-0 against the Mavs this season and are 100-31 all-time against Dallas.
Frontcourt: Dirk Nowitzki is putting together yet another great season. Nowitzki is leading the team in scoring, averaging 21.2 points on 46 percent shooting and 6.7 rebounds per game. Nowitzki has been the Mavs’ leading scorer against the Lakers this season with averages of 24 points and 9.7 rebounds. The Nowitzki vs. Gasol matchup will be certainly entertaining to watch. Brendan Haywood is averaging 5.4 points and 6.3 boards per game. Bynum will need to take advantage of his strength and ability against Haywood on both ends of the court. Metta World Peace needs to limit Shawn Marion’s production as he can still have huge games. Marion is adding 11.0 points and 7.4 boards per game.
Backcourt: Jason Kidd’s game is declining drastically since last year. Look for Ramon Sessions to take control of the point guard battle and have a big game. Kidd is averaging 6.0 points on 35 percent shooting and 5,4 assists per game. Delonte West has started in 27 games for the Mavericks and is averaging 9.0 points and 3.4 assists per game. Guarding West cannot be forgotten by the Lakers, especially along the perimeter. Former Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry is the second highest scorer on the Mavs and he is a reserve. Terry is adding 14.9 points and 3.6 assists per game off the bench, but could easily have a huge game if not limited. Guard Rodrigue Beaubois is putting up 9.0 points and 2.8 assists per game from the bench. Veteran Vince Carter is having a solid year considering he was amnestied by the Orlando Magic prior to the start of the season. Carter is averaging 9.6 points and 3.2 rebounds per game.
Keys to a Lakers’ Victory:
Balance the Stat Sheet
The Lakers need to continue pushing the ball into the paint as they have done in the past three games. Once again, expect to see big games from Bynum and Gasol, especially with the absence of Kobe Bryant. The team needs the continued improvement from a refreshed and healthy Metta World Peace and solid contribution by at least two bench players. Expect to see Ramon Sessions making a big difference on the court.
Keep Them Under 100
The Mavericks are 17-1 this season when scoring over 100 points in a game. The Mavs are 4-0 when scoring 110+ in the game. The Lakers face the challenge of stepping up their defense in order to keep Dallas under the century mark.
Don’t Blow the Lead
I wrote about this last week, but it continues to be a problem for the Lakers, who have developed a habit this season of blowing the lead in the second half. The Lakers need to play with a sense of urgency, passion and consistency all 48 minutes. Controlling the offensive and defensive boards will be crucial for the Lakers to capture a victory.
Dallas Mavericks (34-26) at Los Angeles Lakers (38-22)
12:30 PM PST, April 15, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Radio: 710 AM (English), 1330 AM (Spanish)
Mavericks Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Jason Kidd
SG: Delonte West
SF: Shawn Marion
PF: Dirk Nowitzki
C: Brendan Haywood
Key Reserves: G Jason Terry, G Vince Carter, G Rodrigue Beaubois