Okay, we all know this is a big day in this country. A lot is riding on the turnout of today’s contest and folks all over the country are stressing out about the results and what they will mean. I get it, I do. The Lakers can move to 5-3 on the season and tonight’s game against the Mavs marks a great opportunity for them to take another step forward as a team.
Wait. Oh, you thought I was talking about Election Day. Yes, yes. That matters too.
On a serious note, we keep things on basketball here and that will continue. That said, I know today I will be distracted from the Lakers as the results trickle in from the Presidential election. I have a feeling I am not alone in feeling this way either. That’s about all I will say on this topic and, per the commenting guidelines, I don’t want this to trickle down into the comment section even though I know it’s on a lot of people’s minds.
With that, the NBA season rolls on and the Lakers are back in action against the Mavs. Or, I should say, the banged up Mavs who are struggling mightily right now. The team is only 1-5 on the year and are only ahead of the winless Pelicans in the standings. Dirk, who is out again tonight with a sore/strained achilles, has only played in 3 games and is likely to miss at least a couple more while on the mend. Deron Williams and Devin Harris are also out tonight, which leaves Rick Carlisle’s crew down three key vets and some needed scoring punch.
This also leaves the Mavs a bit thin on the wing. JJ Barrea will move into the starting PG spot with Justin Anderson starting at SF and Harrison Barnes sliding up to replace Dirk at PF. This doesn’t make the Mavs a more dangerous team (missing Dirk is never a good thing), but it does make them quicker and more athletic.
Barrea has long been a thorn in the Lakers’ side and D’Angelo Russell will have to find a way to use his superior size to his advantage on both ends. I hope to see him sag off defensively but still stay in range to contest shots. I’d also like to see him post up the smaller Barrea, be aggressive, and either force help or find ways to get points (either with buckets or trips to the FT line).
Barnes is the other key player here. He is familiar with playing PF from his days in the Warriors’ Death Lineup. He’s a sturdy and strong defender and has enough athleticism to hang with bigger players on the backboards or contest shots from the post. I am interested in seeing how Randle does against him, though. Julius has been wonderfully patient as as scorer to start the year, taking smaller guys to the post and overpowering them and taking bigger guys to the wing and working them off the dribble.
Barnes has the quickness to stay with Randle off the bounce, but does he have the strength to bang with him — especially when Randle gets his momentum going? On the other end, Barnes has been much more aggressive in looking for his own shot than he ever was with the Warriors. In the Mavs last game (an OT win over the Bucks on Sunday), Barnes took 26 shots and scored 34 points. He worked well in isolation and found ways to create his own looks operating in space. Randle, of course, has done well when switching defensively and covering classic wings/PG’s. But that is in limited possessions and this will be his primary matchup. I am curious to see how he does.
A dive into the Mavs’ advanced metrics tells us that this team loves to shoot three’s and that they will not stop shooting from the outside even without Dirk. Against the Bucks, Wes Matthews shot 14 three-pointers and the team as a whole shot 38 of them. Tonight, all it takes is for one or more of these guys to get hot and it can change the complexion of the game quickly.
The Lakers need to do a good job of running the Mavs off the line and force them to either take long twos or put the ball on the ground and drive into help. If the latter happens, the Lakers must also do a good job of helping early and deterring shots at the rim. This team has been one of the worst at allowing points in the paint this year and the last thing you want is to let them get easy baskets or the types of shot attempts which open up second chance opportunities to Andrew Bogut and the bouncy duo of Dwight Powell and Salah Mejri.
Lastly, this is another game the Lakers have a good chance of winning. The Mavs are banged up and have a poor record. They did with their last game, but that was at home (and against a confusing Bucks team). With this game being at Staples, they should have a tougher go of it. Further, this should be a game where the Lakers’ depth and bench scoring can make a huge difference in the outcome. That second unit has been playing really well and with the Mavs shorthanded, it could be the key difference tonight.
Hopefully, we see their good play continue.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.