Preview and Chat: The Dallas Mavericks

Kurt —  March 18, 2008

Records: Lakers 45-21 (2 seed); Mavericks 44-23 (7 seed)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.7 (5th); Mavericks 113.2 (6th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.4 (6th); Mavericks 107.0 (8th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf
Mavericks: Jason Kidd, Josh Howard, Jerry Stackhouse, Dirk Nowitzki, Eric Dampier

Lakers Notes: Some good news from Kevin Ding over at the OC Register – Gasol is off crutches, Bynum has no swelling and Ariza is out of his boot.

And in case you are curious, here is what an anti-gravity treadmill looks like (the kind Bynum has been working out on). (Hat tip to Jeremy at Pickaxe and Roll.)

All reports are that the Lakers are keeping their heads about them during this recent run of play, which is good. Every report out of practice yesterday was about the light atmosphere. Let’s hope that the majority of the practice was spent working on defensive rotations. But I don’t think panic is a good thing.

The Mavericks Coming In: I guess I can write whatever I want about the Mavericks, Cuban isn’t going to think I know too much anyway. (By the way, Henry from True Hoop, Andrew K from the LA Times Lakers blog and the Dallas Morning News blogger that started this whole thing are all going to the game in Dallas tonight. Should be interesting.)

The Mavs come in on a five-game win streak. But before you say “they must have figured it out with Kidd” look at the opponents — New Jersey, New York, Charlotte, Indiana and Miami. If you need time to work on some things, playing the worst of the Eastern Conference is a good time to do it. Tonight, then the upcoming games against Boston and San Antonio, will tell us a lot more about just how good they are now.

One thing we do know, regardless of the opposition, Dirk is playing like an MVP again. In his last 10 he’s been scoring 26 a game shooting 55.2% (eFG%) and 51% from three, and he’s getting to the line 7.4 times per game. Plus he’s grabbing 8 boards a game.

Kidd certainly has upped the assist quotient for the Mavericks, but you can question whether Kidd’s pass first mentality has spread to the rest of the team. Kidd is averaging 10 points and 9.2 assists per game in the last 10, and the less attention he is getting from defenders has dramatically improved his shooting, especially from three — he is hitting 60% from three in the last 10, picking his spots taking 2.3 per game.

Also, Jason Terry is now coming off the bench, providing a little more scoring for the second unit of the Mavs.

Last time these two met: We can only hope this game is as entertaining as that one. The Lakers won it in overtime 108-104 behind 52 from Kobe.

Keys To The Game: Historically the Mavs have had trouble stopping Kobe, and without Pau Kobe wants to take on more of the offense anyway. Last game in the key moments the Mavs tried to stop Kobe with either Stackhouse or Kidd, and neither is really up for that task. Bottom line, should be a good night if Kobe is on your fantasy team. However, for the Lakers to win there likely will need to be some balance from someone else. Hopefully the Lakers can get Odom going early.

With Kidd at the helm the Mavericks are running more than they used to, so the Lakers need to get back in transition. One key to that is being more active on the boards — remember Dampier had 17 boards and looked like a stud last meeting, Ronny needs to outwork him and not let him control the glass.

While he is shooting better since relocating to Texas, you’d still rather force Kidd to shoot than pass. Go under the pick. Odom has traditionally done a fairly good job on Dirk and he needs to be up to that task tonight.

The bench needs to play better, particularly on defense, not letting Terry or Bass get hot.

Defensive rotations. Help the helper. Contest the shot but don’t foul. Important things the Lakers have not really done well lately, but need to tonight from the opening tip.

Oh, if the Lakers are up three late and the Mavs are going to take a last shot, foul.

Where you can watch: The game is at 5:30 pm. (Pacific) on KCAL (9) or League Pass everywhere else.