The Los Angeles Lakers come to Dallas for their second matchup of the season against the Dallas Mavericks with an unexpected set of circumstances: the Lakers hope to avenge and earlier loss and are struggling at 6-7 while the Mavericks have a better record at 7-6.
Who’da thunk it?
The Lakers opened the season 0-3 and have struggled ever since. Upon firing Mike Brown after only 5 games and hiring Mike D’Antoni to replace him, things have been better but not much. After a string of 3 wins earlier this month they have dropped their last two games.
Meanwhile the Mavs have had struggles of their own but are without their best player, Dirk Nowitzki, and have been missing other key contributors for stretches during the season. Nevertheless, O. J. Mayo, Chris Kaman and Vince Carter have all stepped up and had solid seasons so far. The consistency of the entire team, however, particularly point guard Darren Collison and overall field go percentage, rebounding and turnovers have been inconsistent.
The Lakers obviously have been inconsistent as well and since D’Antoni’s takeover they are still 1-2 and despite his offensive prowess as a coach, the Lakers have failed to reach 100 points in each of the last 3 games even with Kobe Bryant leading the league in scoring. The Lakers of course, are not only without Steve Nash but also his backup Steve Blake. While Metta World Peach has stepped up and Kobe continues to play beyond his years, Pau Gasol has struggled offensively and Dwight Howard has had off nights as well. In their last loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, the “Twin Towers” scored 13 points and grabbed 8 rebounds between them. D’Antoni benched Gasol in the fourth quarter of the Grizzlies game after he struggled for the previous 7 periods.
The key to the game for the Mavericks may be not necessarily shutting down Kobe Bryant, who is likely to get his points anyway, but in keeping the rest of the team from being effective. There is no one better to defend Kobe than Shawn Marion and it won’t be Kobe’s easiest night but if he is able to find easy outlets to Howard and Gasol, it could be a long night for the Mavericks who have struggled defending opposing big men all year.
The Mavs need to use the defensive talent they have (Marion, Elton Brand, Bernard James, Dahntay Jones) to disrupt the flow of an offense that clearly doesn’t have the routine down yet and is missing its best drivers. Kobe is leading the team in assists at 5.1 apg, which is surprising considering he’s carrying the offensive load. Overall, the Lakers are still struggling to find an identity and the Mavericks need to take advantage while not allowing Howard to dominate inside.
As I predicted earlier in the year, the Laker’s bench is still suspect and several of them are shooting under 40%. The starters are being overplayed and that can’t be good for the team long-term. While Antawn Jamison finally showed up against the Grizzlies with 16 points and Jordan Hill was very effective against the Mavericks on Oct. 30th, overall the bench has played as expected. For the time being, the Mavs have a huge advantage and should be able to use it when the Lakers have to go to the bench.
Game time is 7:30 P.M. CST at the American Airlines Center.