Lonzo Ball has received plenty of criticism for the way he’s shot during his rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers, but for one night that all changed in the team’s loss to the Detroit Pistons on Monday.
Fifteen points isn’t usually thought of as a huge scoring night, but the nearly perfect 7-for-8 clip Ball scored those points on was worthy of praise during a nearly season-long shooting slump. The evening was also Ball’s second-best shooting performance of the year, trailing only his 4-for-4 shooting against the Atlanta Hawks.
That type of peformance probably isn’t a reasonable expectation for Ball on a night-to-night basis, and the Lakers probably don’t need him to shoot quite that well to beat the moribund Dallas Mavericks, but some solid shooting from Ball would certainly aid their efforts.
If the Lakers’ prior two matchups with the Mavericks are any indication, however, they may not get it, as Ball has shot below 40 percent in both of his first two showdowns with fellow rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr.
Smith Jr. has been one of the few bright spots in what has been a horrible season both on and off of the court for the Mavericks. The first-year floor general ranks second on the team in assists (4.9) and scoring (15.2) per game, but has shot almost as poorly as Ball, making just 39.1 percent of his shots while taking 14.8 per game.
Meaning, his improved scoring is mostly just by virtue of taking more shots than Ball. The Mavericks and Lakers have split their season series so far, so Wednesday’s game will be a chance for at least one of the rookies to claim superiority in the scoreboard of what should be a years-long rivalry.
The Lakers also get Brandon Ingram back from his prolonged groin injury Wednesday night, and going up against the sixth-worst team in the league might be a good way to ease the forward back in for the stretch run.
Now that the Lakers are officially eliminated from playoff contention (something that’s been the case for the Mavericks for a while longer), there isn’t much beyond rookie record bragging rights on the line for this game.
Unlike against the Pistons, however, if Luke Walton can keep his team engaged despite their lack of stakes on the line this time, they should be able to come out with a home win.
Los Angeles Lakers (32-41) Vs Dallas Mavericks (23-51):
7:30 P.M. PST, March 28, 2018
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
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: Travis Wear, Ivica Zubac
Projected Mavericks Starting Lineup:
PG: Dennis Smith Jr.
SG: Aaron Harrison
SF: Harrison Barnes
PF: Maximillian Kleber
C: Dirk Nowitzki
Key Reserves: Doug McDermott, Salah Mejri, Yogi Ferrell, Kyle Collinsworth