Lakers fans are at a crossroads. On one hand there are fans who want to see their team win games, but on the other hand many realize that the best path to long-term success would come from obtaining a high draft pick this June. In that regard, some Lakers fans are hoping the team keeps losing in order to increase it’s draft position. At this point those Lakers fans with the long view can’t be blamed – the Lakers stand to gain nothing by winning at this point. That being said the Lakers have recently taken pride in being the “player haters” of the year and are looking for opportunities to upset playoff bubble teams. The Mavs are on the playoff bubble wavering between eighth and ninth place in the Western conference. Will the Lakers pull the upset and defeat another playoff bubble team?
Frontcourt: The Mavs frontcourt is headlined by Dirk Nowitzki who will be in the hall of fame one day. He’s one of the most league’s most proficient shooters, standing seven feet tall but able to step out and hit three-pointers with easy. Some of his off balance fade away shots are essentially unblockable and it’s almost a miracle that he’s able to sink those shots with regularity. Dirk is averaging 21.6 points and 6.2 rebounds this season which is incredible considering this is his 16th season. He’s very efficient from long distance and will certainly draw out Pau Gasol from the paint. At center the Mavs start Samuel Dalembert who is in the line-up for his rim protection abilities. He’s not an offensive force, but he is a threat to secure offensive rebounds. The Lakers will need to box Dalembert out and prevent him from getting easy putbacks.
Marion was one of the key players on Mike D’Antoni’s successful Phoenix teams in the mid 2000s. He’s a versatile defender and also able to stretch the floor with his three-point shooting. Marion is the ultimate glue-guy who does all of the little things that don’t appear on the box scores. Off the bench Brandan Wright and Jae Crowder provide great energy and hustle.
Backcourt: Monta Ellis has benefited greatly from playing with Dirk Nowitzki in that he’s shown that he’s a superb pick-and-roll player. Ellis has been able to make shots off the pick-and-roll, get into the lane, find open shooters and smartly dump passes to the center. He was maligned for his inefficiencies in the past, but has shown that with the right personnel and scheme, he can excel. In two games against the Lakers this season Ellis is averaging 23 points on 56.3% shooting and nine assists. In other words, he’s been absolutely wrecking the Lakers defense.
At the point guard position Jose Calderon has been getting it done with his three-point shooting. He’s averaging 2.3 treys on 45.4% shooting. Calderon has no doubt been freed up by the dribble drive of Ellis. While he doesn’t opt to shoot often, Calderon is a deadly efficient scorer and can also hurt teams with his passing abilities.
Keys to Lakers’ Victory:
Contain Ellis: Plain and simple, the Lakers need to limit Ellis or else this game could quickly get out of reach. Ellis has been tearing up the Lakers defense this season. In two games against the Mavs this season the Lakers haven’t been able to contain Ellis which ultimately led to two defeats. The Lakers need to rotate effectively when Ellis utilizes the pick-and-roll and look to force him into shooting long-range two pointers.
Rebounding And Defense: It always comes back to these two fundamentals. In the recent win against the Suns, the Lakers showed that they can play with defensive intensity for spurts. They held the Suns scoreless in the final two minutes and ultimately won the fans free tacos. Where has that defensive intensity been all season? If the Lakers are looking to upset the Mavs they’ll need to dig deep and exhibit that type of defense. Additionally the Lakers will need to secure defensive boards and prevent the Mavs from getting second chance points.
Losing is Winning? As we discussed in the introduction, it might be better for the Lakers to lose games at this point. A loss tonight wouldn’t be the worst thing for the franchise’s long-term future. Conversely, each win means the Lakers risk falling further down the lottery. Ideally the Lakers would want to finish with one of the four worst records in the league which would guarantee them at least the fourth overall pick in the draft. At the moment the Lakers have the sixth worst record. The Lakers could pass-up the Jazz and Celtics with a few more losses. No one will contend that the Lakers are intentionally throwing games, but due to injuries throughout the roster, the Lakers are essentially playing the second and third string units on the floor each night.
Dallas Mavericks (45-31) at Los Angeles Lakers (25-50)
7:30 PM PST, April 4, 2014
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SN
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Mavericks Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Jose Calderon
SG: Monta Ellis
SF: Shawn Marion
PF: Dirk Nowitzki
C: Samuel Dalembert
Key Reserves: SG: Vince Carter, PF: Brandan Wright, PG: Devin Harris, F: Jae Crowder
Lakers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Jodie Meeks
SF: Kent Bazemore
PF: Jordan Hill
C: Chris Kaman
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