I know March Madness is on but men’s professional basketball in the National Basketball Association doesn’t stop.
After a quick and, quite frankly, disappointing back-to-back nights on the road, the Lakers are back for the last extended home stand of the season. The first of their five opponents at Crypto Dot Com? The Dallas Mavericks.
The Mavericks lead the season series, two games to one. So they own the tiebreaker. Even if the Lakers defeat the Mavericks on Friday night, Dallas owns the tiebreaker due to a better conference record. So the Lakers have to outright overtake them in the standings for a better seeding than them.
Dallas is wrecked with injuries at the moment. Luka Doncic will not play because of a thigh strain. And four more players, including Kyrie Irving, are questionable with various injuries. Dallas is also a little desperate to get up on the standings and because of these injuries, they’re standing on quicksand. So this is yet another golden opportunity for the Lakers.
This is certainly no gimmie, though. If the Lakers get an undesirable seeding or, worse, be left out of the play-in altogether, they can look at the game against Houston. Of course, every loss counts but this was one they really had a huge chance to win. The Rockets had the second worst record in the league coming into Wednesday and they held on for the win after mostly beating the snot out of the Lakers. Yes, the Lakers didn’t have Anthony Davis but we felt the team was still good enough to defeat the Rockets.
Call it lack of focus or lack of energy but no matter what, the Lakers came out listless against Houston. They did the same thing against Minnesota about two weeks ago and the normally even-keeled Darvin Ham got on them about that in the post presser. They absolutely cannot do this against any team. And if they do this against a shorthanded Dallas Mavericks team, they’re in huge trouble.
We can talk about the Mavericks’ three-point shooting their whole series (18 on Christmas Day, two clutch threes by Luka on January 12th, and 20 made on February 26th). And sure, we can point out the Lakers coming back from 27 to win in their third game against each other. But for me, all of these stats and roster problems go out the window if the Lakers don’t focus on the task at hand.
They absolutely cannot underestimate the Mavericks, especially if they end up missing both star players. Look what happened against Houston.
They cannot come out looking like they just got out of bed. Look what happened against Minnesota.
And they cannot look unprepared going into games. If they knew Anthony Davis was going to sit out (and, by the way, they do have one more back-to-back session left in the season), why not sign another big to play the middle for the rest of the season? Having Davis sit out the second game of a back-to-back seemed questionable to me in the first place, even with the medical team recommending it, but that’s another story and debate that I don’t want to get into in this column. Anyway, Davis, listed as probable, should be back for this contest.
It’s cliche to say that the Lakers need to play all 48 minutes. But their season has been on the line practically all year and the walls are coming down fast. They’re lucky that most of the West have also had problems winning games this year. I have said time and again that they cannot depend on teams like the Thunder, Wolves, or the Mavericks to lose when they’re sucking. The Lakers have to worry about their business and let everything else fall into place.
Beating the Mavericks would take care of biz and let the Lakers fall into a good place.