Kidd will look to slow Bryant tonight (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

One down, One to go

Last night the Mavericks won their fifth straight game, defeating the L.A. Clippers 106-100.  The team will stay in L.A. tonight and play the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.  The win moved the Mavs to within a half-game of the Lakers for the second spot in the West.  A win tonight will push the Mavs past the Lakers and may put them within striking distance of the banged up, slumping Spurs.

Last night, the Mavericks got off to a slow start as turnovers were once again a problem.  The team trailed after one quarter, as seems to be the pattern during the team’s current winning streak.  The players acknowledged that they will need to get off to a better start if they are going to run the streak to six games tonight.  Rick Carlisle emphasized the need to protect the ball following the game. 

While the team did get off to a slow start, they finished strong.  J.J. Barea had 16 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, sparking the victory while allowing Jason Kidd to rest most of the last quarter.  Unfortunately the Clippers made a run and Carlisle, wanting to make sure the game did not slip away, put Kidd back in the game.  Kidd still only played 29 minutes which should help him to be fresh for tonight’s game.  Kidd finished the game with 5 points, 10 assists, and 1 steal. 

Dirk Nowitzki led the team with 24 points, while grabbing 6 boards, and 3 assists.  But Dirk also put up big numbers in the minutes column, logging 37 minutes of action.  This could come back to haunt the team tonight against the well-rested Lakers.  But then again, the Mavs lead the league with a 13-4 record in the second game of consecutive games.  Maybe too much rest gets the team too tight. 

Tonight the Mavs get the opportunity to silence the critics who claim that they are paper tigers, that their record against the best in the West , an underwhelming 2-9, is no reason to be concerned once the playoffs begin.  Everyone know that the Lakers have the size advantage with Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum.  The Mavs will need to rely on their superior quickness and stay aggressive offensively, while still protecting the basketball, if they are going to  leave the Staples Center with their second win in as many nights.

The team will rely on Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic to continue to provide energy and scoring from the bench to pull off the upset.  They also need Roddy Beaubois to step up, stay away from foul trouble, and be aggressive against the much older Derek Fisher.  Fisher cannot match the athleticism of the much younger Beaubois.  The Mavs must capitalize on this mismatch and force the Lakers to bring help.  This will open up the outside for Dirk and the boys to knock down big jumpers. 

But can the Mavericks avoid yet another slow start?  Can they stay loose in a game that will be played with a close to a playoff intensity?  Can they take care of the basketball and not give the Lakers additional scoring opportunities?  Will Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood be able to slow down Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum?  These are the keys to a Maverick victory. 

I have my doubts as to whether they can pull this one out, given their performance the several games.  But the Mavericks have been able to turn it on when they needed to.  My prediction: this is going to be a great game!  Get some popcorn, pour your favorite beverage, and watch the Mavs pull off their biggest win of the year.

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Tags: Dallas Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki J.J. Barea Jason Kidd Jason Terry

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