The Los Angeles Lakers play their 24th straight Christmas Day game when they face the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday. L.A. is coming off a loss to the Charlotte Hornets while Dallas just beat the Houston Rockets on the road.
There is deep Christmas history on the Purple and Gold side. The Lakers are 24-24 all-time in Christmas Day games — the most wins on the Holiday. LeBron James is making his 17th appearance in a Christmas game, breaking Kobe Bryant’s record for most appearances. A win will give LeBron’s 11th on the holiday, the most of any player.
Often at home, the Lakers are playing just their fourth road Christmas game since the 2006-07 season — L.A. is 1-2 during that span. Dallas, meanwhile, is playing just its sixth Christmas game with its last win being in 2008. The Mavericks will also unveil a Dirk Nowitski statue before the game.
L.A. is without Anthony Davis and Juan Toscano-Anderson, although Thomas Bryant is available to play despite suffering a shoulder injury in the loss to the Hornets.
For the Mavericks, Kemba Walker and Dorian Finney-Smith have been ruled out. Finney-Smith is significant because of his defense on James. His absence makes Dallas very thin in the wing position although Reggie Bullock is playing after being listed as day-to-day. Jaden Hardy is still day-to-day while Josh Green has been ruled out.
No surprise here, but Luka Doncic will be the main focal point for the Lakers’ slumping defense. Doncic is coming off 50 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists on 56% shooting from the field. Doncic torched the Lakers last season with a 32-point, 12 rebound and assist triple-double. He has two career triple-doubles against L.A. and is the heart of the Mavs offense.
Lonnie Walker IV should match up with Doncic although Patrick Beverley and LeBron will see stretches of defending him too. Without Davis, it’s a challenge to defend against Doncic, whose high IQ and passing ability make double teams look foolish. Buckling down to stop Luka is an important key to a Lakers win.
However, in recent games, the Lakers’ defense has done anything but buckle down. In the last eight halves without Davis on the floor, L.A. has allowed 64 points per half. They have also allowed 132.7 points per game in their last three games — the worst in the league.
Charlotte had 62 points in the paint in its win on Friday, eight points above their average. Luckily for the Lakers, Dallas has the worst paint point-per-game average in the NBA.
Outside of Doncic, Christian Wood and Spencer Dinwiddie are having solid years averaging 16 points a piece. Dinwiddie has been in double figures in 15 of the last 16 games. Surrounded by a plethora of shooters around Doncic, staying disciplined will be important. Dallas is an average 3-point shooting team at 35% per game.
The Lakers’ offense hasn’t been a concern recently and it shouldn’t hurt them against Dallas. The Mavericks are an average defensive team statistically, however, as L.A. was guilty of against Charlotte, taking any team lightly could hurt them.
A win on Christmas Day to snap the three-game losing streak will be the best present for many Laker fans. A fourth straight loss could turn some into the Grinch.
Los Angeles Lakers (13-19) vs. Dallas Mavericks (17-16)
11:30 a.m. PT, December 25, 2022
American Airlines Center
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Dennis Schroder
SG: Patrick Beverley
SF: Lonnie Walker IV
PF: LeBron James
C: Thomas Bryant
Key Reserves: Russell Westbrook, Austin Reaves, Troy Brown Jr., Wenyen Gabriel, Max Christie
Projected Mavericks Starting Lineup:
PG: Luka Doncic
SG: Spencer Dinwiddie
SF: Reggie Bullock
PF: Tim Hardaway Jr.
C: Christian Wood
Key Reserves: Dwight Powell, Davis Bertans, Frank Ntilkina, McKinley Wright IV, Theo Pinson
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