The Los Angeles Lakers finally got Anthony Davis back in the lineup after more than two months away. Now, they face an important game against the Dallas Mavericks as they look for breathing room in the crowded Western Conference standings.
The Lakers and Mavericks faced off on Thursday, with Dallas winning by just five points. With that result, the Mavericks climbed to within 2.5 games of L.A. for the No. 5 overall seed. After a loss by the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night, the Mavericks found themselves in sixth place, one spot out of the play-in tournament.
With No. 5 only 2.5 games ahead and the play-in tournament threatening them, the Mavericks are likely extra motivated to grab a win over the Lakers.
What makes this game so important for the standings is that a win would make it extremely difficult for anyone to catch the Lakers at No. 5, essentially cementing them in that spot. Defeating the Mavericks would make it a 3.5 game lead over both them and the Trail Blazers with only 12 games to go. A loss would bring the Mavericks to within 1.5 games.
In order to get the win, the Lakers need to do a better job of keeping the Mavericks off of the free-throw line. On Thursday, Dallas shot 36 free throws — making 26 — compared to L.A.’s 17, hitting 14. That 12-point difference was massive in a five-point loss.
As far as injuries go, the Lakers will obviously be without LeBron James. But they also may be missing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marc Gasol, who are questionable with an ankle sprain and a volar plate fracture, respectively. Caldwell-Pope is a true game-time decision for L.A.
The Mavericks have their own issues, as Kristaps Porzingis and Josh Richardson were ruled out. Maxi Kleber, who missed Thursday’s game, is returning, however.
Davis still has a minutes restriction, Frank Vogel revealed that it is up to 25 minutes this game and he will play minutes in both halves.
Regardless of who in on the court, this may be one of the last must-win games of the regular season for both teams, given how much a win would mean to each side. If the Lakers cannot close this one out, they’ll need to pile up wins in their upcoming four-game stretch against all non-playoff teams.
Lakers (35-24) vs. Mavericks (32-26)
5:30 p.m. PT, Apr. 24, 2021
American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Dennis Schroder
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Kyle Kuzma
PF: Anthony Davis
C: Andre Drummond
Key Reserves: Montrezl Harrell, Markieff Morris, Alex Caruso, Talen Horton-Tucker, Wesley Matthews
Projected Mavericks Starting Lineup:
PG: Luka Doncic
SG: Tim Hardaway Jr.
SF: Dorian Finney-Smith
PF: Dwight Powell
C: Maxi Kleber
Key Reserves: Willie Cauley-Stein, Jalen Brunson, JJ Redick
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!