Records: Lakers 30-7, Mavericks 10-26
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.9 (4th), Mavericks 115.3 (1st)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.2 (3rd), Mavericks 108.6 (16th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green, LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, JaVale McGee
Mavericks: Luka Doncic, Delon Wright, Tim Hardaway Jr., Dorian Finney-Smith, Dwight Powell
Injuries: Lakers: Anthony Davis (out), Avery Bradley (questionable); Mavericks: Kristaps Porzingis (out), J.J. Barea (questionable)
No extended preview today, mostly because this is the 4th time the Lakers and Mavs have faced off and we have a pretty good feel for what these games look like. The one variable that’s different, of course, is that there are some injuries this game on both sides that will impact how things go.
On Dallas’ side, Kristaps Porzingis remains out with what is being called a sore knee. If you read those who cover the Mavs, though, there are questions if this is more serious than general soreness considering he’s not played since December 29th (a loss vs. the Lakers) and he just had a PRP injection — a treatment option that is meant to stimulate healing when dealing with injury. Porzingis’ health is to be monitored in the short and long term, but that has little to do with tonight. He’s out and the Mavs will suffer for it.
Just as the Lakers will suffer with Anthony Davis sitting out with his bruised butt muscle after taking that nasty (and scary) fall against the Knicks on Tuesday. Davis did travel with the team, which is encouraging and keeps the door open for him playing tomorrow in OKC, but he’s out tonight and will be missed by a Lakers team that depends on him severely — particularly in those minutes that LeBron is out of the game.
This game, then, quickly becomes about LeBron and the Lakers role players vs. Luka and the Mavs role players, a battle that really could go either way. The Lakers will need their shooters to show up this game, especially Danny Green and KCP. The Lakers are very hard to beat when both those guys are hitting 3’s and while that margin lessens with Davis not playing, the production that comes from these guys is even more important now. If both can hit double figures in points while hitting 3-4 threes each and playing their typical level of defense, it will go a long way towards the Lakers winning.
Beyond those two, though, the most important non-LeBron player this game will be Kyle Kuzma. Kuz will get his chance to start in AD’s place and his want to space the floor will already help LeBron get better driving lanes and have more room to operate from the post and when running P&R’s with JaVale (or Dwight). Kuzma will, however, have to do more than just stand behind the arc. He’s going to have to hit shots too. He’ll also need to make his mark as a cutter and P&R partner with LeBron in the half court, as a finisher and playmaker in transition, and as a back line defender and rebounder on the other end of the floor.
Kuz has not had his strongest season and with his name coming up in trade rumors recently, I’m sure he has more on his mind than normal. This is a wonderful opportunity, though, to reiterate his value and, with a bigger role in this game, offer production to that also helps his team win. While I’ll likely post my full thoughts on Kuz and a potential trade a bit later, I really do believe in his talent and want to see him do well.
Defensively, the last time these teams played Luka played poorly and that filtered through to the rest of the team. I do not expect that this game when he’s playing at home. The Lakers will need a strong defensive effort both individually and as a team, particularly in the P&R to hedge/trap and recover appropriately to the roll/pop man and to shooters spotting up around the arc. The Lakers need to run folks off the line and channel them into help. If they do that, you can live with the results. If you don’t rotate well, though, and surrender open 3’s, those are mistakes they’ll kick themselves over when watching the film.
Where you can watch: 6:45pm start time on Spectrum SportsNet and ESPN.