Since matching a season best three game winning streak at the end of February, the Los Angeles Lakers have lost three straight games on the road and four total. They will return to Staples Center tonight in the first game of a four game homestand against a Dallas Mavericks team that has dropped two straight themselves. The Lakers will continue to lean heavily on their younger guys as Byron Scott is giving them extended run. Jordan Clarkson has made the most of this opportunity and will be looking to build on the career-high 25 points he scored against the Memphis Grizzlies this past Friday.
Frontcourt: Tyson Chandler anchors the Mavericks frontcourt as one of the better defensive centers in the league. Defensively, the Mavericks leaned heavily on him during their championship run in 2011 and Mark Cuban took a lot of heat for failing to resign him in the subsequent summer. Now back in a Mavericks jersey, Chandler is enjoying a strong year, averaging a double double with 10.4 points and 11.7 boards. While Chandler has never been a very prolific shot blocker, he is a proven post defender and space eater in the paint that will impact the game defensively. Offensively, he won’t do more than convert offensive rebounds and finish alley-oops.
A seamless fit on any squad, Dirk Nowitzki is perhaps the ideal fit next to Chandler. In his 16th year, Nowitzki continues to be an offensive weapon, averaging 17.4 points in just 29.6 minutes a game. He is more than able to take on the scoring load for both himself and Chandler. On the flip side, Chandler will pick up Dirk’s slack on the defensive end. Nowitzki’s patented fadeaway jumper is nearly impossible to stop and the best the Lakers can do is put some length on the floor to try and disrupt his shot.
With Chandler Parsons sidelined, Richard Jefferson has been logging heavy minutes and has been playing very well. In his 13th season, Jefferson remains a savvy veteran scorer who is a lock for a handful of points each night. That said, he is no longer the explosive scorer he once was and the Lakers wings will have a beatable matchup tonight.
Backcourt: After more than two months with the Mavericks, Rajon Rondo still seems to be figuring out how to be effective in his new team’s offense. To say that Rondo’s play was erratic in January and February is giving him too much credit. The truth is, Rondo was consistently bad in those two months. That said, he has picked up the slack lately, averaging 12.8 points, 5.8 dimes, and 5.8 boards in his last four games. He still lacks the ability to shoot the deep ball, which has been an issue in his tenure with the Mavericks.
Despite the Rondo experiment being a bit of a failure thus far, the Mavericks are still playoff-bound and that is largely because of Monta Ellis. Ellis has enjoyed something of a rebirth in Dallas, shedding his reputation as a selfish gunner and playing solid team basketball that has produced wins. He has the ability to be one of the league’s top scorers, but has really played within his team’s offensive scheme by deferring to his teammates early and often. He is still a deadly scorer and is averaging a healthy 19.0 points per game. The Lakers need to be aware of him down the stretch as he has a knack for hitting big shots late in games.
Heading into tonight’s game, Lakers are seven-point underdogs against Mavericks via Sportsbook.ag.
Keys to Victory:
Exploit the Guard Matchup: Dallas’ starting backcourt is relatively undersized and may be the most exploitable part of their defense. Although once considered a great defender, Rondo has regressed significantly and will have to be attacked early and often by the speedy Jordan Clarkson. Clarkson has really been coming into his own lately and is fully capable of getting the better of Rondo in this matchup. The situation at off-guard is not very different at all as Ellis will never be mistaken for a defensive-minded player. He also gives up a lot of size to Wayne Ellington, who should have a quick trigger in tonight’s game as he will be able to comfortably shoot over the smaller Ellis with regularity.
Defense: Before holding the Grizzlies to 97 points last Friday, the Lakers had surrendered 100 or more points in 12 consecutive contests. They will need to build on the strong defensive outing they had against the Grizzlies tonight. The Lakers are just not good enough offensively to consistently win games while giving up so many points. If the Lakers can contain Ellis and Nowitzki man to man, they will have a good chance of keeping the game close.
Los Angeles Lakers (16-45) vs. Dallas Mavericks (40-24)
6:30 PM PST, March 8, 2015
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Mavericks Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Monta Ellis
SF: Richard Jefferson
PF: Dirk Nowitzki
C: Tyson Chandler
Key Reserves: PG: J.J. Barea, SF: Al-Farouq Aminu, PF: Amare Stoudemire
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: Wayne Ellington
SF: Ryan Kelly
PF: Carlos Boozer
C: Robert Sacre