On Tap: The Dallas Mavericks

Kurt —  February 7, 2006

Record: 37-10 (Pythagorean 37-10), top seed in the West (tied with the Spurs)
Record last 10 games: Freakin’ 10-0, they’ve won 11 straight
Laker record against Dallas: 2-0
Offensive Rating: 113.2 (2nd in league)
Defensive Rating: 105.5 (12th in league)

About the Mavericks: The best team in basketball the last couple of weeks, and they should be motivated because Kobe dropped 62 on them in three quarters last time these two met. All of which is really bad news for the banged up and slumping Lakers.

Dirk Nowitzki is on fire — he’s shooting 58.6% from three-point range in the last 10. In that time he’s also pulling down 7.4 rebounds per game and has a true shooting percentage of 59%. He gets overlooked in the MVP talk, but he shouldn’t be.

The thing is, he’s got help. In the last 10 games Josh Howard is shooting 48.9% (eFG%) while Jason Terry is the weak shooting link in the starting lineup at 45.8% overall and 35% from beyond the arc. Jerry Stackhouse is coming off the bench shooting 50.4% in the last 10.

Plus the Mavericks are playing defense — teams are shooting just 46.7% against them, fifth lowest percentage in the league. If you want a weakness, they do give up a lot of offensive rebounds (28.4% of opponent misses).

The Lakers coming in: Chris Mihm and Lamar Odom are considered “doubtful.” So who gets to cover Dirk? Cook if you look at last game’s starting five, although I think Devean George is the better defender and should get a lot of time on Dirk and even the start (as he did two games ago).

Defense? We don’t need no stinkin’ defense. Among the Laker problems of late, defense is at the top of the list. I mentioned this in the midseason report card and things have not gotten better. The Lakers have given up 100 points in seven of their last eight games, but part of that is they have picked up the pace of play recently. Their defensive rating in the last 10 games is 108.1 (points per 100 opponent possessions) — much worse than the 104.5 they had back when they were playing good defense up until mid December. They will need to play good defense tonight against one of the most efficient offensive teams in the league.

One thing I hope to see tonight: Ronny Turiaf is eligible and it would be great to see him get a few minutes and bring his energy to the game. Heck, let him try to cover Dirk for a while, he can’t be worse than Cook.

Another thing I hope to see tonight: Honestly, good effort and execution, that may be enough for the Lakers stay within 25.

Key’s to a Laker win (or at least to cover the 11-point spread): The Mavs had had trouble stopping Kobe this season, but you know he’s going to get some special attention tonight and the Mavs “D” has been better of late. For the Lakers to win Kobe will again have to score 60+ and someone else — Smush, Cook, even Kwame — is going to have to step up and have a career night. Maybe a couple of guys need to do that — there have to be other options. And I’m not even sure that would be enough for an outright win.