Los Angeles Lakers (19-13) at Dallas Mavericks (21-12)
6:30 PM PST, February 22, 2012
American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas
TV: KCAL, ESPN
Radio: 710 AM (English), 1330 AM (Spanish)
Mavericks Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Jason Kidd
SG: Vince Carter
SF: Shawn Marion
PF: Dirk Nowitzki
C: Brendan Haywood
Key Reserves: G Jason Terry, F Lamar Odom
The Lakers head back on the road for two games after briefly returning home for one, a 103-92 victory over the Trail Blazers on Monday night. The Lakers showed some impressive signs of life against Portland, jumping out to a 37-7 lead to begin the game. But, the Blazers would not go down without a fight, outscoring the Lakers 85-66 the rest of the way. Still, the Lakers effort was enough to pull out the victory. After the game, the team had a players-only meeting to address several issues surrounding the squad including trade rumors revolving around Pau Gasol. The speech was also aimed at attacking the second-half of the season, beginning tonight against the suddenly red-hot Dallas Mavericks.
Frontcourt: When thinking about the Dallas Mavericks, you immediately think about the seven-foot phenom, Dirk Nowitzki, easily one of the most intimidating forces in basketball. Nowitzki does it all (if you did not know that already), he can shoot the ball from anywhere on the court, he is a great free throw shooter, he rebounds, and plays defense. In his last 10 games (in which Dallas is 7-3), Nowitzki is averaging 25.4 points per game, which increased his season totals to a 19.4 scoring average. Not bad for a player that felt he was not deserving of an All-Star nod. He is teamed with Shawn Marion and Brendan Haywood. Just a few years ago, Marion was a fantasy basketball freak. Since ending his first stint with the Phoenix Suns in 2007, he has seen his steals and blocks fall, but is still a force to be reckoned with. He is also known for the funky shooting motion he possesses. When Marion scores, the Mavs win. In fact, he averages 13.9 points in Dallas victories. That compared to 8.7 points per game when they lose. When Marion’s production is lessened, his slack is forced upon to Haywood, the team’s center. Haywood has the daunting task of trying to replicate the menacing force that was Tyson Chandler for the Mavs en-route to their championship victory last season. But a near double-double per game is tough to replace. Haywood offers a little more than half of the production Chandler created for Dallas. Still, for the amount of time he plays, he gives the Mavs more than enough for what they are paying for. Sliding in as the fourth member of the frontcourt is old friend Lamar Odom. L.O. is experiencing the worst season of his 13-year career scoring only 7.7 points and grabbing 4.5 rebounds per game. To be fair, he is also seeing less minutes at just 21.4 minutes per contest.
Backcourt: The backcourt features two venerable (but cunningly dangerous) guards in Jason Kidd and Vince Carter. Both players are in the tail end of their storied careers, but still have much left to play for. Kidd still passes with precision, while Carter will put quite a finish to any scoring drive. The Lakers locked up Kidd in their first meeting with Dallas, holding him to just three points. What about Carter? Only six points. This pair may be ideal for the Lakers’ style of play. Just do not lose sight of them. The backcourt would not be complete without a mention of sharpshooter Jason Terry. Terry missed two games last week with a sore quadriceps. His return was pivotal after losing Delonte West to a broken finger, an injury that is going to keep him away from the game for awhile.
- The Lakers lead the overall series against the Mavericks by a margin of 98-31. They are 1-0 against the Mavericks this season, which includes a 73-70 victory on January 16, 2012. The Lakers have won three straight (regular season games) against Dallas.
- The Lakers are just 1-6 against teams with a record over .500.
- The Mavericks have held an opponent under 90 points during a loss just once this season (Lakers).
Keys to a Laker Victory:
– Make the Bench Play a Role
In their first meeting, the Lakers held the Mavericks starters not named Dirk Nowitzki to 17 points. Dirk had 21.
– Limit the Threes
Dallas shot just 4-for-26 (15.4 percent) last time out against the Lakers. If not for the Lakers struggles on offense, that game would have been a blow out. Still, the Lakers were fortunate to win then, and will be even more so if they cannot do so in raucous Dallas this time around.
– Avenge the Playoff Loss
The last time the Lakers visited Dallas, Andrew Bynum was the center of attention for all the wrong reasons. He was suspended, and has had quite the season. Go into the building and let those demons loose. This is a new season and a new chance for a changed direction.
Best-Case Prediction: Lakers 97, Mavericks 92
Worst-Case Prediction: Mavericks 103, Lakers 91