The Los Angeles Lakers return home to face the Dallas Mavericks in a key Western Conference battle Friday night. The Lakers are coming off a brutal loss against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday. Dallas defeated the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, snapping a 3-game losing streak.
Only one game separates the Lakers and Mavericks in the standings as things currently stand. A loss for the Lakers and a New Orleans Pelicans win would drop L.A. to No. 11 in the Western Conference while a win puts them in a three-way tie for the No. 7 seed.
With only 12 games remaining in the regular season, each game is huge for the Lakers and dropping consecutive games could be catastrophic. Back-to-back losses to Western Conference opponents are even more disastrous, especially if the teams above them keep winning.
Luckily for L.A., Anthony Davis is expected to return after missing Wednesday night’s game to Houston. He had a monster 30-point, 15-rebound outing against the Mavericks last month, dominating Dallas’ small ball lineup. Davis has scored 30 points in four of six games this month. LeBron James and Mo Bamba are still out for the Lakers.
Dallas will be without star Luka Doncic, who misses his fourth straight game with a thigh injury. Doncic had two 30-point outings against the Lakers this season, but struggled when the two teams faced last. Kyrie Irving is listed as questionable with a foot injury and his status is still up in the air. Irving has missed the last three games but did participate in shootaround Friday morning.
Tim Hardaway Jr. will return for Dallas after missing the previous game. Former Lakers Javale McGee and Markieff Morris are questionable. Everyone else is available for Dallas.
Defending the 3-point line will be important for the Lakers. Dallas shot 51% from deep in their previous game and over 40% in two of three meetings against L.A. But without Doncic’s playmaking, open 3-pointers will be difficult to find for the Mavericks role players. It also helps that the Lakers are allowing teams to shoot just 34% from deep, the best in the league.
Dallas has struggled without their two stars, needing overtime to beat the lowly Spurs and dropping three straight games when Irving and Doncic were sidelined. Defensively though is where the Mavericks have been better without those two. Teams are shooting 46.4% from the field in the last three games, below Dallas’s season average.
Head coach Jason Kidd has employed a younger, more active starting backcourt with Josh Green and Jaden Hardy. With more freedom, both have scored at least 20 points in three straight games. The points have been spread more evenly too with Doncic and Irving out — five players had at least 20 points in Dallas’s previous game. The defense will be important for L.A.
For the Lakers, a road to victory is simple. Dallas doesn’t have a great defensive big man that can contain Anthony Davis. If he’s aggressive early, it could be a long night for Dallas. Dwight Powell defended Davis the most in the previous game. Maxi Kleber will likely get some run at Davis too.
It’s another huge game for the Lakers at Crypto.Com Arena as the regular season rapidly winds down. A win evens the season series and could be huge for a potential tiebreaker. A loss means another step down in the tight Western Conference.
Los Angeles Lakers (34-36) vs. Dallas Mavericks (35-35)
7:30 p.m. PT, March 17, 2023
TV: Spectrum SportsNet, NBA TV
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Malik Beasley
SF: Troy Brown Jr.
PF: Jarred Vanderbilt
C: Anthony Davis
Key Reserves: Dennis Schroder, Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, Wenyen Gabriel, Lonnie Walker IV
Projected Mavericks Starting Lineup:
PG: Josh Green
SG: Jaden Hardy
SF: Reggie Bullock
PF: Tim Hardaway Jr.
C: Dwight Powell
Key Reserves: Maxi Kleber, Justin Holiday, McKinley Wright IV, Davis Bertans
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