By: Nathaniel Lastrapes
Disaster looms over the Los Angeles Lakers and its fanbase, as the team has lost their first two games of the regular season. The hangover from the disastrous loss to the Sacramento Kings on Friday night still linger, but the Lakers will look for their first win tonight against the Dallas Mavericks.
The young Lakers core is still in search of its identity, but the 2015-16 season is still in its infancy. There are some serious issues that the Lakers need to attend to, but the season is still too young to overreact. A win against the Mavericks (1-1) will boost the team’s confidence and temporarily restore faith in the team.
One player who will not be featured in the Mavericks frontcourt is Los Angeles Clippers center, DeAndre Jordan. The Mavericks were set to sign Jordan in free agency, but he changed his mind and spurned the franchise at the last minute. This was definitely a significant blow to the Mavericks championship aspirations, but they will move forward with the roster that they have.
A key part of the roster who has been a staple in the lineup for the last 18 years, Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk has been the Mavs’ centerpiece for the majority of his career. He has lead the team to two Finals appearances, one of which they won. The seven-footer brought the European style of play to the NBA and changed the landscape of the league significantly. Dirk started the trend of big men who can shoot from deep, and he also has an unstoppable step-back fadeaway.
Chandler Parsons is entering his second year with the Mavericks and will continue to grow with the team. Parsons is a great two-way player and can get up and down the court with the best of them. Parsons missed the first two games of the season with a knee injury that he sustained against the Houston Rockets in April, but he will make his debut tonight against the Lakers. Parsons is not likely to be in great condition, but Parsons is one of those players who always seems to have breakout games against the Lakers.
A name that was tied to the Lakers years ago is former All-Star Deron Williams. Williams had his best years playing point guard for the Utah Jazz playing alongside another former Laker, Carlos Boozer. Williams had been linked to the Lakers via trade rumors and free agency, but he ultimately decided to re-sign with the Brooklyn Nets. Williams seemed to lose his star power in Brooklyn, but he will attempt to revitalize his career with the Mavericks.
Another notable newcomer to the Mavericks is shooting guard, Wesley Matthews. Matthews is coming off of a season-ending Achilles injury last year with the Portland Trail Blazers. Matthews is known for being a solid two-way player who can put defensive pressure on the guards and who can also knock down threes. If Matthews gets hot, he can have a significant impact on the game.
The Mavericks also have another rotation player in the backcourt who has always been a Laker killer, J.J. Barea. Barea was integral in ending the Lakers quest for a three-peat in 2011, as he picked apart the Lakers defense and embarrassed the back-to-back champs. Barea made a name for himself when the Mavericks swept the Lakers, but since then, he always seems to have one some of his best games of his career against the Lakers.
Keys to Victory:
Limit Points in the Paint: The Lakers defense was horrendous against DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings. They allowed 80 points in the paint and even half of that is too many points to allow in the paint. Roy Hibbert needs to make sure everyone on defense is communicating and rotating quickly. If the Lakers can limit points in the paint, they will have a significantly better chance of beating the Mavericks.
Smart Shot Selection: Kobe Bryant started opening night hot from beyond the arc, but he got three-point happy by the end of the night. Kobe has taken 21 three-pointers in the first two games and he, along with the rest of the team, needs to limit the three-point attempts and take smarter shots. This will come with better ball and player movement off the ball, so the Lakers need to find an identity on offense.
Ball and Player Movement: The Lakers have been stagnant on offense in the first two games of the season. One player handles the ball and the other four players stand around and watch. The Lakers should run more pick-and-roll action with their two young guards, D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson. Coach Byron Scott should give the two guards free range to create and make things happen offensively. Letting those two orchestrate the offense will only help them in their development.
Dallas Mavericks (1-1) at Los Angeles Lakers (0-2)
6:30 PM PST, November 1, 2015
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Mavericks Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Deron Williams
SG: Devin Harris
SF: Chandler Parsons
PF: Dirk Nowitzki
C: Zaza Pachulia
Key Reserves: PG: J.J. Barea, SG: Wesley Matthews, C: Javale McGee
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Jordan Clarkson
SF: Kobe Bryant
PF: Julius Randle
C: Roy Hibbert