As the Los Angeles Lakers head on a short three-game road trip, they’re faced with some good news and some bad news. Anthony Davis is returning to the lineup, but several Lakers players have entered the league’s health and safety protocols ahead of their matchup against the Dallas Mavericks.
On Tuesday, the Lakers abruptly cancelled practice when it was revealed that Talen Horton-Tucker tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), meaning he’ll be out at least 10 days unless he registers two negative PCR tests over 24 hours apart before that time.
Later on Tuesday night, Dwight Howard and Malik Monk both joined Horton-Tucker in the protocols. L.A. is 100% vaccinated, therefore Howard and Monk face the same return-to-play rules as the third-year guard.
Now, the Lakers must embark on their road trip down three major rotation players as well as two coaches in Phil Handy and David Fizdale, which is nothing new for them at this point in the season. However, they’re not the only ones with bad luck, as the Mavericks are down a few players as well.
Luka Doncic (ankle), Sterling Brown (foot) and Willie Cauley-Stein (personal reasons) have all been ruled out for Wednesday’s matchup. This will be the seventh game Doncic has missed this season due to an ongoing ankle issue.
So for both the Mavericks and Lakers, this primetime matchup will serve as a next-man-up type battle. Luckily, LeBron James, Davis and Russell Westbrook are all in the lineup, barring any last-minute health and safety protocol additions.
The Lakers are 10-6 this season when James plays and 5-7 when he doesn’t, giving them the ultimate advantage with him being healthy. Despite the bad luck surrounding COVID protocols, L.A. has won five of their last seven and are playing a team missing by far their best player.
The Mavericks are not to be taken lightly, though, even without Doncic. Kristaps Porzingis, Jalen Brunson, Dorian Finney-Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. have done well leading Dallas through games without their superstar, and L.A. has a history of letting teams hang around too often this season.
In order to win and continue their recent good stretch, the Lakers must come out with defensive intensity against a team filled with solid scorers. If they can, they’ll inch closer towards safety atop the conference standings.
Lakers (15-13) vs. Mavericks (14-13)
4:30 p.m. PT, Dec. 15, 2021
American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas
TV: ESPN, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Wayne Ellington
PF: LeBron James
C: Anthony Davis
Key Reserves: Carmelo Anthony, Austin Reaves, DeAndre Jordan, Rajon Rondo, Kent Bazemore
Projected Mavericks Starting Lineup:
PG: Jalen Brunson
SG: Dorian Finney-Smith
SF: Reggie Bullock
PF: Dwight Powell
C: Kristaps Porzingis
Key Reserves: Tim Hardaway Jr., Maxi Kleber, Trey Burke, Josh Green
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