Preview and Chat: The Dallas Mavericks

Kurt —  January 25, 2008

Records: Lakers 27-13 (6 seed); Mavs 28-13 (3 seed)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.1 (7th); Mavs 114.2 (2nd)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.6 (7th); Mavs 107.7 (15th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Kwame Brown
Mavs: Devin Harris, Eddie Jones, Josh Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, Eric Dampier

Lakers Notes: Kobe is starting in the All Star game, not a surprise but a deserved honor none-the-less.

Luke Walton has not stepped up in the wake of Trevor Ariza going down, but more and more it is clear that his ankle injury is not letting him. Walton looks a step slow (and he was not a blazer to start with) and his shot just seems flat (although his is 5 of 10 from three in the last 10). Also, while we have cried out for more Ronny minutes with Drew down, his big toe is holding him back.

As for more reading, I suggest the great interview the Brothers K did at the LA Times blog with assistant coach Jim Clemons, who was a back-up guard on the Lakers 72 NBA championship team (with Wilt and West and a host of other greats). Not just great stories, but he ties it into how being on that team made him into a better coach today.

Or, check out this great Deadspin rant on the difference between bloggers and journalists.

The Mavs Coming In: The Mavs have been inconsistent through their first 41, but that’s what happens when you have a team with a great offense but average defense (last year the Mavs were 5th in defensive rating, this year it is 15th). Offense can leave you for a game or three. According to KD and those that have seen them more recently, the Mavs have been playing better D of late, then again they let what’s left of the Wizards shoot 52% (eFG%) and put up an easy 102 on Monday.

The Mavs are still 8-2 in their last 10 and have a very balanced attack. That Dirk guy is very good — shooting 50.5% (eFG%) for the season, 39.5% from three in his last 10 and still gets to the line 6 or 7 times a game (even shooting all those fadeaways). Devin Harris is a speed burner who can shoot inside or out (but shoots best straight on, the Lakers should try to push him to the wings). Josh Howard loves the wings but you need to defend him everywhere. Jason Terry off the bench, much like Dirk (and Kobe) can hit from any and everywhere.

Despite what many still think about the Mavs, this is not a run-and-gun team any more (they are 25th in the league in pace and average 7 fewer possessions per game than the Lakers). One thing you see very little of is the Mavs going small — Avery Johnson said he doesn’t like playing Devin Harris and Jason Terry at the same time, particularly against the Lakers, because they are at a disadvantage on defense (trying to match up with Kobe).

Jerry Stackhouse is a game-time decision after tweaking his hammy against the Bobcats two nights ago.

Keys To The Game: We’re becoming fans around here of the Lakers small-ball lineup (Farmar, Fisher, Kobe, Odom and Turiaf) but I (and 81 Witness) have concerns about using that lineup against a good shot blocker. Well, tonight I’d like to see a fair amount of that group because the Mavs do not have a guy who intimidates in the middle (Dampier gets blocks but not because of his quick rotations and tremendous leaping ability).

Look for the Mavs to go big trying to guard Kobe — Josh Howard will get the first shot but Devin George and Eddie Jones may get time off the bench. After all the times he has torched them, the Mavs may well be preoccupied with stopping Kobe — if so, and the other Lakers step up like they did against Denver the Lakers can score plenty. If it becomes the third quarter against the Spurs, the Lakers will get outscored.

The Lakers can’t get discouraged on defense — the Mavs are going to get theirs. They just need to try to make the Mavs inefficient and not have long periods of offensive futility. Like the entire third quarter, for example.

What also would help is if Eddie Jones does a few more of these.

Where you can watch: Game time is 5:30 p.m. (Pacific). In Los Angeles tune into KCAL (9). Nationally, I hear League Pass is nice.