The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off of a home win against the Minnesota Timberwolves, while the Dallas Mavericks most recently emerged victorious in a 144-143 double overtime thriller against the Denver Nuggets. Of course, the Lakers are bound for the lottery while the Mavs will likely have a first round playoff date with the Memphis Grizzlies or San Antonio Spurs. Tonight will be another opportunity for the Lakers to evaluate their young talent in anticipation for next season. For the Mavs, tonight’s game is little more than a playoff tune up and potentially a chance to rest some of their star players.
Frontcourt: Tyson Chandler is one of the Mavs’ most important players. In the past, Chandler had a couple of defensive minded teammates in Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd, but on this year’s squad, he is one of the only above average defenders on the team. He is averaging 11.5 boards a game on the season and 13.0 over his last five. Offensively, he shoots a high percentage as he rarely takes any shots away from the rim, but he lacks any ability to create his own shot.
Next to Chandler, future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki will be gunning away to make up for Chandler’s lack of scoring ability. Though a player like Nowitzki can fit with any teammate, it’s hard to imagine one that fits with him better than Chandler. Where Nowitzki lacks on the defensive end, Chandler is there to pick up the slack and on the flip side, Nowitzki is more than capable of handling the scoring for the pair of them. Though his shooting percentage is down a bit this season, Nowitzki has been picking it up over his last five, averaging 20.2 points on 52.2 percent from the field. Of course, this is phenomenal efficiency for a player whose patented fadeaway is perhaps the most unguardable shot in today’s game.
At small forward, Chandler Parsons is likely to make his return and will bring his versatile skill set to a Mavs team with a perimeter game that relies a bit too heavily on Monta Ellis. Parsons will of course operate largely as a spot up shooter in the starting lineup, but he has also shown an ability to make plays with the second unit. He is averaging 2.0 three-pointers made a game and the Lakers will have to chase him off of the line as he has a tendency to make them in bunches.
Backcourt: Rajon Rondo sat out the Mavs’ last game for rest and it would be difficult to say that the Mavs missed him very much. Since arriving in Dallas, Rondo has disappointed and has not been an ideal fit next to another ball dominant guard in Monta Ellis. This has been an issue that has been exacerbated by Rondo’s inability to shoot the ball. He is averaging just 9.1 points and 6.5 assists a game as a Maverick. As advanced analytics have become more prevalent, guards who can’t shoot have become increasingly devalued. Like every other team, the Lakers simply need to dare Rondo to shoot in favor of taking away his dribble penetration and play-making ability.
Like Rondo, Ellis isn’t a great long range shooter. However, he has absolutely no reservations about taking that shot if it is given to him and he has had a tendency to score a handful of them in quick succession. He is the Mavs’ leading scorer at 19.1 points a game and is their closer late in games. In the past, Ellis had been considered a selfish and immature player, but he has fit in very well with this Mavericks team. As an explosive scorer, Ellis very much has a chance to get it going at any time, which can make the Mavs a tough out come playoff time.
Keys to Victory:
Rebounding: With the exception of Tyson Chandler, the Mavericks have a collection of very pedestrian rebounders. The Lakers need every advantage they can get and rebounding is an area that they can beat Dallas in. If Ryan Kelly and Tarik Black aren’t getting the job done, Coach Scott should not hesitate to put in Ed Davis who has been active on the glass all year. At the point guard spot, Jordan Clarkson will have to make it a point to box out Rajon Rondo as well as Rondo has the tendency to grab long rebounds in bunches.
Get the Ball into the Paint: The Lakers have had a tendency all season to settle for long jump shots. Against a Mavs team that doesn’t really have a whole lot of elite perimeter defenders, they simply have to work the ball into the paint to create open looks. Both Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown should be able to get into the paint and get shots at the rim or open threes for their teammates. The Lakers cannot be preoccupied with Tyson Chandler’s presence in the middle as the Mavericks don’t have much depth behind him. If the Lakers attack and Chandler gets into early foul trouble, the entire floor should open up for them.
Los Angeles Lakers (21-58) vs. Dallas Mavericks (48-31)
6:30 PM PST, April 12, 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: Chandler Parsons
PF: Dirk Nowitzki
C: Tyson Chandler
Key Reserves: PG: Raymond Felton, PG: Devin Harris, SF: Al-Farouq Aminu
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: Jabari Brown
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Ryan Kelly
C: Tarik Black
Byron Scott Credits Lakers For Moving The Ball ‘Without An Agenda’