The Lakers enter their 3rd game of the season winless and last in the Pacific Division standings. Every other team in the division has at least one win. If you are looking for solace, though, there are other teams in the conference still looking for a win, including preseason playoff hopefuls in the Rockets (0-2) and the Pelicans (0-3). To be fair, the Rockets have played the Warriors once and the Pelicans have faced the Dubs twice, but hey, I’ll take the silver linings wherever I can find them.
Tonight’s opponent is the Mavericks, themselves 1-1. They’re dealing with injuries to start the year, neither Chandler Parsons or Wesley Matthews have played yet while recovering from knee and achilles surgeries, respectively, over the off-season (Matthews has also been dealing with a knee issue). What the Mavs have lacked in their top talent, they’ve made up for in coaching and some viable depth. It hasn’t been pretty, but they have ground through games trying to hang close.
The Lakers, meanwhile, have had an interesting profile through their first two games. Against the Kings they were blown out of the water early and never really recovered. They stabilized things, but the deficit was too big. The game against the Wolves, though, offered their template for how they can actually win a game. That contest saw them go up by as many as 16, but through a series of bad fouls and poor offense they gave it all away to the tune of a loss.
What’s also interesting is what the team’s statistical profile has been. This is from the preseason:
Per @RealGM, the Lakers ranked 5th! in offensive efficiency (105.4) during the preseason, but ranked 28th in defensive efficiency (107.5).
— Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) October 26, 2015
That trend of a good offense and an awful defense has carried over to the first two games. Through Saturday’s games, the Lakers rank 11th in offense and 28th in defense. They are also playing at the second fastest pace in the league and have shot the most three pointers per game. This profile of a fast team who shoots a lot of threes (the Lakers have shot 69 threes through two games – nice) while scoring reasonably well and defending quite poorly might sound familiar. It’s the same one from Mike D’Antoni’s last year with the team.
How this all translates against the Mavs tonight will be fun to watch. Dallas hopes to get Chandler Parsons and Wes Matthews back in this game, and while Deron Williams will not play, they have a variety of perimeter threats who will not mind getting up and down the court in a shootout type of game.
Of course, while those other Mavs will be important, Dirk Nowitzki is still the marquee player. Yes, his minutes are down and he’s no longer the MVP candidate he was earlier in the decade, but his offensive arsenal is still impressive and he can still hurt you with his shotmaking. His match up with Julius Randle, then, will be the one I’m most interested in.
You’re unlikely to find two more contrasting styles than what Dirk and Randle offer and it will be interesting to see how both guys deal with the other’s strengths. Randle will need to be sharp in his pick and pop coverage while also fighting for position in the mid-post and trying to make the big German as uncomfortable as he can when shooting his turnaround jumper. On the other end. Randle will need to use his speed and power to get by Dirk off the dribble. However, Randle will have a much easier time if he can make a jumper or two to force his man to guard him more closely and open up those driving lanes.
The other storyline, of course, is this being the first game after Kobe’s comments about taking a step back to let the young players better develop. Will this translate to something tangible on the floor? If so, what? I am as curious as the next guy. I think one thing to look for, even without those comments, will be fewer three pointers from Kobe. He’s shot 21 over the first two games of the year which is entirely too many. Cutting down on those shots in favor of moving the ball within the offense would be helpful, regardless on whether or not that’s what he meant by stepping back.
Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.