The Dallas Mavericks (9-3) have won five in a row, following four comfortable wins over lesser opponents by holding on for a tough one against the Washington Wizards. The Los Angeles Lakers (3-9) started slowly, but have won their last two, including a win over the Houston Rockets last game. The game tips off at 8:30 ET.
The leagues best offense meets the league’s worst defense, so this could be an offensive showcase for the Dallas Mavericks. The Lakers come into the game dead last in defensive rating and give up the most points per game, while the Mavs lead the league in scoring and offensive rating.
Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons look to rebound from disappointing (by the lofty standards they set) performances against the Wizards, combining for only 24 points on 24 shots. After appearing to tweak his ankle in the fourth quarter of that game, Dirk returned to calmly hit a clutch three pointer to bolster the Mavs’ dwindling lead. The Lakers do not have lockdown defenders for either position (or any position, really), so they could see their share of open looks.
Tyson Chandler should also be able to dictate the paint on both ends of the floor, anchoring the defense in the middle, finishing around the rim and building on his 16 rebound effort last game.
One of the keys for the Mavericks could be whether Devin Harris returns, as he is listed as day-to-day and missed last game. Although Carlislse likes to use him off the bench, Harris plays starter level minutes and is the most valuable non-Monta guard on the roster (at least until Carlisle finally decides to unleash Ricky Ledo). Jameer Nelson continues to struggle, going for only 5 points on 2-12 shooting and turning it over 4 times against the Wizards. His struggles have forced the team to rely much more on recently returned guard JJ Barea than anyone expected. If Harris is forced to miss another game, it will be interesting to see how Carlisle alters his rotations. He had to rely heavily on the Barea-Wright combination of the bench, and those two will likely have to play heavy minutes again.
Despite their lackluster record, the Lakers are not a team to overlook. They have a number of players who could contribute on offense, as seen in the Rockets game. Kobe Bryant could go off at any point, and the Lakers recent win streak has coincided with the return of Nick Young, who adds another dynamic scoring option. Given that the Mavericks have a game against Houston tomorrow night, they will want to build a sizable lead to cut down the minutes for their older cornerstones to keep them fresh for the back to back. Given their predilection for hot first halves, look for the Mavs to try to jump out to an early lead and put the game out of reach early.
Feb 24, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) shoots against Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Two Giants of the Game
Kobe and Dirk are two of the most respected players in the game, and have both achieved success as the highest levels.
Their paths have diverged in recent years, with Dirk deciding to give his team the home discount in search for another title challenge, and Kobe signing a massive two-year contract that hamstrings the team’s ability to surround him with talent. Through twelve games, the differences in approach are yielding very different results. The Mavericks team at times looks like an offensive juggernaut, and is positioning itself to make a serious run in the playoffs. The Lakers, on the other hand, already look likely to miss the playoffs again, and aside from the Swaggy P effect or watching Kobe try to climb the all time scoring list, it can be hard to see many silver linings to this season so far.
Look for a high scoring affair as the Mavericks try to keep the momentum going into their game against budding rivals Houston Saturday night, but they have to be careful not to overlook the sleeping giant that is Kobe Bean Bryant and the Lakers.