Heading into Sunday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks, the Los Angeles Lakers are dealing with good and bad news on the injury front. On the good side, Larry Nance Jr. has been cleared to return against the Mavericks. On the other end however, is D’Angelo Russell now being out 1-2 weeks with an MCL sprain.
Nonetheless the Lakers head into Dallas on the heels of a much-needed win over the Indiana Pacers that ended a five-game losing streak. The Mavericks have lost two straight games coming into this matchup, but have had the Lakers’ number so far this year.
These two teams have met twice already, both times in Los Angeles at Staples Center, and both times the Mavericks came out on top. Early on in the season Dallas won 109-97 and late in December they again won by a 12-point margin, 101-89.
The Lakers will be hoping to return the favor on Dallas’ home court.
With center Andrew Bogut out, the Mavericks have gone small recently, employing a backcourt of Deron Williams and Seth Curry.
Williams, the veteran, has been solid this season for the Mavericks and keeps things in control for the team. He excels when getting into the paint and is able to create for himself and others and with the number of shooters around him, things can get dangerous for the Lakers if they allow him to get in the paint at will.
One of those shooters is Curry who can get as hot as anyone in the league. He is shooting 42 percent form three-point range this season and dropped 23 points in the first matchup between these teams. His shooting can change the complexion of a game in an instant.
Dallas has a couple of veterans off the bench in Devin Harris and noted Laker-killer JJ Barea. They must make sure not to let Barea take over the game like he is capable of.
Without D’Angelo Russell, expect veteran Jose Calderon to get the nod in the starting lineup next to Nick Young. Calderon doesn’t have the playmaking ability of Russell, but he is a knockdown shooter who does a good job of getting the Lakers into their offense.
Young finally seems to be past his shooting slump after hitting nine three-pointers in the last two games combined. He hyperextended his knee on Friday, but returned to the game and is just fine for this contest. He will need to continue to knock down shots, especially with Russell gone.
More pressure will fall onto the shoulders of Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson with Russell hurt. Williams remains the Lakers’ leading scorer and has dropped at least 24 points in each of the last three games. Clarkson has been very consistent as of late and will also need to bring it on defense for this team.
Wesley Matthews moves to the frontcourt in this small Mavericks starting lineup next to leading scorer Harrison Barnes and future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki.
Matthews finally seems to be regaining his form after tearing his Achilles two seasons ago. He has always been a stout perimeter defender and is also shooting 38.3 percent from three-point range. Barnes meanwhile has really stepped up in his first year as the premier scorer for a team. He is averaging over 20 points a game and has been everything the Mavericks hoped for since they signed him this summer.
Nowitzki finally seems to be slowing down a little bit now in his 19th season with the Mavericks. Of course that doesn’t mean he’s someone to forget about as he can still score the ball with regularity and is always dangerous.
Dwight Powell and Dorian Finney-Smith give the Mavericks some athleticism off the bench while Salah Mejri provides some size and defense.
Luol Deng’s status is still questionable for the game, but rookie Brandon Ingram has performed very well in his place the last couple of games and will play a large role regardless of if Deng suits up. Ingram’s all-around game is really coming through recently and his play has been noticeably better.
The other two front court spots for the Lakers are set in Timofey Mozgov and Julius Randle. Mozgov has been up and down, but provided a real presence for the Lakers on Friday night. With Dallas employing such a small lineup, however, this may be a game where he doesn’t see as much court time.
Randle also had a nice bounce back game against the Pacers with 16 points, five rebounds, and four assists. He must become more consistent as the Lakers tend to play better when he has things going, especially as a playmaker. He has a huge physical matchup against Batnes that he must take advantage of.
Tarik Black will undoubtedly play a big role off the bench, especially if the Lakers match Dallas by going small. This game will also see the Lakers finally welcome back Larry Nance Jr. for the first time in a month. His energy and basketball IQ will be a very welcome addition.
Three Keys To Victory
Crash The Glass
Dallas is the worst rebounding team in the NBA and the Lakers must take advantage. Mozgov, Randle, Black, Nance, Robinson, Ingram, and Deng (if he plays) must attack the glass on both ends to create extra opportunities, and get out on the fast break.
Keep The Defensive Energy
The Lakers got back on the winning track thanks to their defense, holding the Pacers below 100 points. That energy must continue as the Mavericks have a few shooters who can get very hot, very quickly. They also don’t turn the ball over often so the Lakers forcing some would put Dallas in an unfamiliar position.
Let Ingram Keep Growing
Whether he starts or not, rookie Brandon Ingram continues to prove himself to be ready for a bigger role on this team. He is arguably the team’s best two-way player and his offense is coming around quickly. He must continue his ascent as the quicker he improves, the more dangerous the Lakers become.
Los Angeles Lakers (16-31) @ Dallas Mavericks (14-29)
12:30 P.M. PST, January 22nd, 2017
American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas
TV: Spectum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Mavericks Starting Lineup:
PG: Deron Williams
SG: Seth Curry
SF: Wesley Matthews
PF: Harrison Barnes
C: Dirk Nowitzki
Key Reserves: JJ Barea, Devin Harris, Dwight Powell, Dorian Finney-Smith, Salah Mejri
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Jose Calderon
SG: Nick Young
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Julius Randle
C: Timofey Mozgov
Key Reserves: Lou Williams, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Tarik Black, Ivica Zubac