Lakers face a different Mavericks team on Sunday afternoon

The Dallas Mavericks took the first two games against the Lakers this season.

The Lakers have won three of their last four, which happens to be after the trading deadline. They’ve looked great in those victories and the lone loss in that stretch was against a fiery Portland Trail Blazers team. For the most part, though, it’s easy to look encouraged with this new-look Laker team.

But next in line for L.A. is a dangerous Dallas Mavericks team. The Mavericks are positioned in the 6th spot in the West. Yes, they have Luka Doncic. But their front office was able to get a legit co-star in Kyrie Irving before the deadline. And it was really no secret that a disappointed LeBron James wanted Irving in the fold.

Despite his… intricacies, Irving has the star power, the scoring, playmaking, clutch shooting, and is an unstoppable one-on-one player. So now the Lakers have to not only game plan for Luka but for Kyrie as well.

Kyrie Irving didn’t play against the Lakers on November 13th (when the Lakers beat the Nets). But he did play in the second match-up when the Nets got their win back against L.A. on January 30th; he scored 26 points. With the trade to Dallas, though, Kyrie possibly gets to face the Lakers an additional couple more times (Mavericks get the Lakers one more time on March 17th) and he’s going to be a handful.

But we know that Dallas is all about Luka Doncic. On Christmas Day, the Lakers zeroed in on him. However, the Mavs supporting cast let it rip for 51 points in the third quarter. That was quite embarrassing. And Luka still got 32-9-9, anyway. In the second match-up, it was a double overtime affair that saw Luka Doncic make two clutch threes. Doncic ended with an impressive 35-14-13 triple-double. Whether the Lakers did single coverage or sent multiple defenders, they couldn’t stop Luka’s razzmatazz-hop-skiddily-doo.

And the Lakers still have to watch out for Christian Wood (17.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per), Tim Hardaway Jr. (13.2 PPG), young Josh Green (9.3 points per and .414 from three) and Reggie Bullock’s marksmanship (.379 from three). Dallas also recently picked up Justin Holiday. The Mavericks still have a lot of firepower.

But defending? Probably not gonna happen. Ever since they acquired Kyrie, Dallas is 3-3 and at the bottom 10 in defense (118.2 points allowed per 100 possessions in that span; that would be 29th in the league overall this season).

In that same span, the Lakers are 6th (108.3 points allowed per 100 possessions). It definitely helps to have Anthony Davis back but the group in general looks more active. Jarred Vanderbilt is high energy all the time. Rui Hachimura is doing his damnedest. Austin Reaves doesn’t make it easy on anybody.

D’Angelo Russell is doubtful on Sunday afternoon after he hurt his ankle in the first half against the Warriors. Dennis Schröder might start in his place but it’s gonna hurt the Lakers to have one less playmaker in the active roster. We’ll see what Darvin Ham does here.

Maybe the third time is a charm for the Lakers. Either way, it’s a huge game for L.A. as they continue their rally towards a play-in (or maybe a playoff) spot. In a perfect round world, the Lakers put it away early before they go into their back-to-back at Memphis on Tuesday and at Oklahoma City on Wednesday.

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