The Los Angeles Lakers have won their last three games, which is already a season-high streak for the team. Lonzo Ball, Brook Lopez and the rest of the Lakers will look to extend that stretch to four when they take on Dirk Nowitzki, Dennis Smith, Jr. and the rest of the lottery-bound Dallas Mavericks in a matchup of two franchises who have typically fielded much better rosters.
The Lakers and Mavericks are in similar positions. Both are looking for ways to move forward after decades of building around the best player in their franchises’ history. Although, the Lakers are slightly further ahead in that regard with a few more first-round picks on their roster and Kobe Bryant off trying to win Oscars while Nowitzki continues to play for the Mavericks.
Nowitzki might not be what he once was, but he still has the gravitational pull of a black hole on the perimeter while shooting 42.1 percent from 3-point range on the year, which would tie for the most lethal season from behind the arc of his career if the season ended today.
Nowitzki’s per-36 numbers are also still eerily similar to his career norms, so while he might not be the fadeaway jumper-firing MVP candidate of yore, the Lakers will still have to keep an eye out for the future Hall-of-Famer.
Luckily for Los Angeles, they’ve boasted their own flame-spewing, seven-foot Stephen Curry over the last few games thanks to the play of Lopez. The Lakers’ largest offseason acquisition and Disney enthusiast has shot exactly the same as Nowitzki (42.1 percent) from three for the Lakers over their last three wins.
Lopez’s shooting has been part of an overall resurgence for the Lakers that’s seen the team connect on 37.6 percent of their treys over their current winning streak. That’s in stark contrast to the league-worst 32.9 percent their shooting on the season.
Both teams are also similar in the types of player their hoping can lead their next dynamic team, looking to build around young point guards in Ball and Smith, even if the two’s games couldn’t be any more different.
Smith is an athletic firecracker, the leaping ability of Larry Nance Jr. compacted down into the body and skill set of a first-option floor general.
Ball can jump a little too, as evidenced by a few recent alley-oops, but not on Smith’s level. What Ball has shown, however, are far more passing chops while distrubiting the ball all over the floor. Ball’s passing has fueled a Lakers attack that ranks first in the league in pace while averaging 103.75 possessions per 48 minutes.
The Mavericks rank 25th in the league in pace (97.30 possessions per 48 minutes), and the battle between the two teams will likely depend on which can dictate their type of game speed upon their opponent.
Saturday’s early-bird special may not come with playoff implications like it did in year’s past, but the similar trajectory of the two teams’ current paths, as well as whatever defensive chicanery Dallas Mavericks head coach Carlisle draws up to slow Ball and perhaps send a message due to his father’s mouthiness in the press, will make this a game worth watching.
Los Angeles Lakers (14-27) Vs. Dallas Mavericks (15-28)
11:00 A.M. PST, January 13, 2018
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum Sportsnet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Julius Randle
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Kyle Kuzma
Projected Mavericks Starting Lineup:
PG: Yogi Ferrell
SG: Dennis Smith, Jr.
SF: Wesley Matthews
PF: Harrison Barnes
C: Dirk Nowitzki
Key Reserves: Maxi Kleber, J.J. Barea, Devin Harris, Salah Mejri
WANT TO PARTICIPATE IN THE DISCUSSION? CHECK OUT THE NEW LAKERSNATION FORUM CLUB