LOS ANGELES — Well, their last game was pretty good, wasn’t it?
The Lakers played one of their best all-around games this season as they took care of the Oklahoma City Thunder on Martin Luther King Day. Will they do it again against the Dallas Mavericks (24-17) on Wednesday in an earlier-than-usual contest (the game starts at 5:30 PM Los Angeles time and on ABC!).
The Mavericks have had the Lakers’ number this season. On Nov. 22, Kyrie Irving made a clutch three to take the win over Los Angeles, 104-101. The Lakers couldn’t even counter with their own shot in the ensuing possession. In their second match-up on Dec. 12, Dante Exum (who scored a season-high 26 points) couldn’t seem to miss in another close Mavs win. Kyrie wasn’t on the court this time but it’s tough to beat a team when they make 21 three-pointers. The Lakers dropped their second game against Dallas.
Well, unless there’s a last-minute change, Kyrie Irving will be back on the court against the Lakers. While he probably wonders how turtles mutate into ninjas, Irving has been scorching the nets, scoring 37.4 points per in his last five games. Still one of the most electrifying players in this league, he’ll make defenses do the 1-2 step over and over.
However, Luka Doncic is questionable as he has missed the last three games with an ankle sprain. And Dante Exum is out with a foot injury and he hasn’t played in the last 7 games.
Still, the Mavs have enough firepower. Irving put in 42 and super-sub Tim Hardaway, Jr. scored 41 in their win over the Pelicans last Monday. And we’ve seen Hardaway be a thorn on the Lakers’ side many times; he scored 32 in that aforementioned Dec. 12 game. Mavericks also have rookie sensation Dereck Lively II that will do the dirty work. Grant Williams and Derrick Jones, Jr. are both probable for this contest and they are both willing to get in the mud. Or get in the air, in the case of former dunk champ Jones. Jaden Hardy and Josh Green have been productive coming off the bench and the Mavs did get Maxi Kleber back a few days ago. We remember what Kleber did to the Lakers last season.
But if the Lakers want to get their first W against Dallas this season, they have to make it uncomfortable for them. The Mavericks have mostly played clean against L.A., only turning the ball over 14 times total in those two previous contests. If the Lakers can play that swarming defense like we know they’re capable of, they can make the Mavs turn the ball over more than 14 times in Wednesday alone. But while that defense was great against Oklahoma City, the Thunder did get a lot of clean looks from three. Considering the Mavs made 21 in their previous match-up, it’s probably not a great idea to give them those shots.
On the offensive end, what we saw against the Thunder was ideal. They had 6 players in double figures with LeBron James and Anthony Davis leading the way. D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves started together once again and they got their shots. And Rui Hachimura and Christian Wood got it going off the bench. We’d like to see more threes made from Taurean Prince and we know he’s definitely capable of that. It’s also a wonder why Darvin Ham didn’t stick with that starting line-up (LeBron, Davis, Reaves, Russell, Prince) in the first place as he seems to change those line-ups at the first sign of panic. Ham will be staying with those particular players to start for the foreseeable future.
Either way, the Lakers hope to win their second straight game with this new plan. And it’s a golden opportunity they can’t waste, especially if Luka doesn’t play on Wednesday.