The Los Angeles Lakers’ most recent 102-99 to the Utah Jazz was more proof that the team just doesn’t quite know how to handle late game situations yet. Taking away the last few minutes of the game however, saw a lot of positives out of our home team. Luke Walton praised the teams’ defense saying it was “Walton thought his team played “the most aggressive defensive game in a long time,” which gave them a chance to win despite poor shooting.
Good defense is something that has been foreign to the Lakers most of this season, but when they can stay aggressive on defense, it allows them to get out in transition and score easy buckets. Hopefully, these young players realize the fruit of their labor and continue to stay aggressive on that end.
Tonight’s game comes against the Dallas Mavericks, who play similarly to the Utah Jazz but do not possess the same level of talent. Once again, the team coming into Staples Center is riding a losing streak as the Mavs have lost their last two games, but they did win the first match-up back in early Novemeber, 109-97.
The majority of the Dallas Mavericks backcourt minutes are shared between three people: Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews and Seth Curry. Normally J.J. Barea would also be part of the rotation, but he is out due to an Achilles injury.
Williams is no longer the player he used to be in Utah, but he can still get hot on any given night. Currently, Williams is averaging 13.9 points, 6.8 assists and 2.4 rebounds, but is only shooting 40.5 percent from the field and 33.2 percent from three. He is also a big guard that D’Angelo Russell won’t be able to easily dominate in the post due to his build and strength.
Matthews is the starting shooting guard and is a true two-way player. He is second on the team in scoring, at 15.8 points per game and is also their best three-point shooter at 37.7 percent. On the other end he is a strong defender who can body up guys and has quick hands. Nick Young will have his hands full.
Curry obviously isn’t his brother, but he is making his own mark in Dallas averaging 10.2 points and 3.1 assists off the bench. The Lakers are very familiar with how he can get hot as he scored 23 points, hitting four three-pointers in the first game. The Lakers can’t allow a repeat performance.
The Lakers backcourt has had its share of struggles with the rest of the team during its 2-13 record in December. D’Angelo Russell has really struggled offensively the last couple of games, shooting 29.2 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from three. His handling of the late-game situations against the Jazz also came under fire, even though head coach Luke Walton shouldered the blame himself.
Walton also pointed out that he felt Russell was much improved defensively against the Jazz. Additionally, since his six turnover outing against the Heat, Russell has only seven total in the last three games. Nonetheless Russell must begin putting everything together to take the next step.
Nick Young has been up and down in the last couple of games, mixing nights like his 19-point game on Christmas, with nights like his four-point performance against the Jazz. Young has proven to be a very important weapon for Los Angeles, and when his three-point shot is falling, he makes the Lakers a very dangerous team.
Lou Williams has been one the most consistent players for the Lakers this season, scoring in double figures in all but two games. The former sixth man of the year had 22 points against the Utah Jazz and has been a go-to player in late game situations. Meanwhile, Jordan Clarkson has been the opposite, following great games with terrible nights. He must become more consistent for the Lakers.
The Mavericks frontcourt is a big reason why their defense has been so effective. Rick Carlisle has always been known as a defensive coach and employs Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut as his anchors to his defense. The Former Warrior players have been the big reason for success on both ends of the floor.
Bogut continues to be one of the best rim protectors in the NBA, but his status for the game is unknown. The Mavs list him as questionable and with a back-to-back, Dallas may choose to rest him. When Bogut has missed games previously, the Mavericks have usually gone small and insert another defensive-minded player in wing Dorian Finney-Smith next to Barnes and franchise stalwart Dirk Nowitzki.
Nowitzki has been the face of the Mavericks franchise since he was drafted in 1998. The German star has shown signs of fading this season, only averaging 11.9 points 5.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists though some of this likely also has to do with injury as he has only played in eight games so far this season.
Without Dirk, it has been Barnes who has stepped up as the Mavericks’ top player averaging 20.4 points and 5.5 rebounds and he dropped 31 points in Dallas’ victory over the Lakers earlier this year. Figuring out a way to contain him will be crucial to a Lakers win.
Dwight Powell and Justin Anderson give Dallas a couple of good athletes and defensive-minded players off the bench who can change the flow of the game.
The Lakers’ frontcourt lineup has seen improvement in recent weeks as Luol Deng, Julius Randle, and Timofey Mozgov have all played well.
Randle has been filling up the box score as of late with games like against Utah where he put up 25 points and 12 rebounds and then games like against Charlotte eight points, six rebounds, five blocks and four assists. The Former Wildcat has picked up the intensity on both ends of the floor and nearly led his team to a victory against the Jazz.
Deng has finally gotten comfortable in his role with the Lakers averaging 11.2 points and 9.0 rebounds in the last five games. His most important role, however, will be guarding Barnes and making sure he doesn’t have a repeat performance. Mozgov has also been very solid recently, but if Dallas goes small without Bogut, Mozgov may not see as much court time.
Off the bench, Brandon Ingram has shown some more aggression recently, something Walton would like to see more of. His shooting still hasn’t been great, but he makes an impact in plenty of other ways. As for Thomas Robinson, aggression has never been an issue and he has taken full advantage of his recent uptick in minutes, crashing the glass and bringing energy and hustle at all times.
Three Keys to Victory:
Push the Pace:
The Mavericks are like the Jazz in that they want to score in the half court and they usually execute late in the shot clock. Also, they want to keep the game at a snail’s pace and keep the score in the 90s. The Laker’s offense plays better when they get up and down the floor and score buckets early in the shot clock and they impose their style on this game.
Keep Playing Aggressive on Defense:
Luke Walton said that their defense was what kept them in the game against the Utah Jazz. Los Angeles has not been able to win many games without shooting the lights out, but the last game proves that their defense can keep them close enough to win games. The Dallas Mavericks like to retain a low score and will make it difficult for the Laker’s offense to run smoothly.
Trust The Offense:
The Lakers have a bad habit of playing isolation ball when the going gets rough. This team plays its best basketball when the opposing team doesn’t know which player to guard. In their last game, Lou Williams was the player that was getting buckets to bring his team back. Luke Walton needs to keep his team focused in late game situations.
Los Angeles Lakers (12-23) Vs. Dallas Mavericks (9-23)
7:30 P.M. PST, December 29, 2016
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Mavericks Starting Lineup:
PG: Deron Williams
SG: Wesley Matthews
SF: Harrison Barnes
PF: Dirk Nowitzki
C: Andrew Bogut
Key Reserves: Dorian Finney-Smith, Seth Curry, Justin Anderson, Dwight Powell
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Nick Young
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Julius Randle
C: Timofey Mozgov
Key Reserves: Lou Williams, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, Thomas Robinson