The Lakers (14-27) are on a bit of a roll coming into their game against the Mavericks (15-28). It’s a Saturday matinee between two of the worst teams in the Western Conference.
The Lakers have won three straight after a nearly-debilitating nine-game losing streak. All three games were won by double digits, including an impressive win over San Antonio on Thursday at Staples.
Brandon Ingram has had a nice run in the Lakers’ three-game winning streak, averaging 20.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per (you can check out a lot of what Brandon Ingram did right in this fun film session by Pete). He’s also shot really well in that span as he has made .621 of his field goals. Lonzo Ball has also been pretty good since he came back; he’s reached double figures in rebounds the last three games. Ball scored 18 points in their game against the Spurs. The Lakers have been 3-1 since he returned to the court.
But there is something to be said about the Lakers’ defense in the last three games. They’ve had a defensive rating of 90.1 points allowed per 100 possessions in those three wins. That is, in a word, stingy. Sure, you can say that they went against poor teams like the Hawks and the Kings but they also beat the mighty San Antonio Spurs in that run (15 steals against them!). You hope they get to continue that against the Mavericks.
I think it’s pretty funny that the Lakers and Mavericks are facing each other for the first time this season in mid-January (they meet each other four times this campaign). Anyway, Dallas is in rebuilding mode themselves as they are transitioning the team to one Dennis Smith, Jr. He’s been a productive rookie thus far even though, just like every young player, he has his growing pains. He’s not a very good shooter right now and a lampshade might be a better defender than him. But his explosiveness (he’s got like a 271-inch vertical) and athleticism makes him one to watch in this game.
Harrison Barnes is still the Mavericks’ #1 option. He’s done a decent job, averaging 18.8 points per contest. The team will go to him in the clutch, like they did on Wednesday in their win against the Hornets. Wesley Matthews will continue to dog opponents on defense, which has been his calling card his whole career. And the team still has franchise icon Dirk Nowitzki. He is still deadly from behind the arc as he is shooting a near-career best .421. You never know when he goes old-school on you.
Of course, we can’t forget known Laker-killer J.J. Barea. Y’all remember him, right? And Rick Carlisle is one of the most cerebral coaches in the game. They may not have the talent but Carlisle has his guys ready to play every day.
Whereas the Lakers are the fastest team in the league, the Mavs like to slow it down (25th in pace). So it’s a matter of imposing the style of play in this game. What’s more, Dallas likes to end their possessions with a three. Dallas is ninth in percentage (.370), puts up the third-most threes per game (31.9 threes per contest), and makes the second-most per game (11.8). So the Lakers have to really contest those shots behind the arc.
Mavericks also know how to take care of the basketball. Their turnover percentage is the least in the league at 12.8% (12.8 turnovers per 100 plays). And the Mavericks have the second least turnovers per game at 12.6. So the Lakers really have to try and pry the ball out of the Mavericks’ hands. And if the Mavs end up falling into the hands of the Lakers’ fast pace, they might just be able to do that.
The Lakers definitely want to continue this win streak going. If anything, they would want to pummel the Mavericks into oblivion; Dallas swept the Lakers in their season series last year, which included a 49-point shellacking on Jan. 22 (something about that date in Laker history) of last season. That was the Lakers’ worst loss in franchise history so I’m sure they want to put that behind them with a win on Saturday afternoon.
While both teams are far from a playoff spot at the moment, they do have some pride on the line. Here’s hoping for the Lakers’ fourth straight win.
Where you can watch: Spectrum SportsNet at 11 AM Pacific time (if you’re in the East and have NBA League Pass, that would be 2 PM!). It’s early for us West Coasters so I hope you’re awake by then.