It took Los Angeles Lakers superstar Anthony Davis 65 days and 30 missed games to nurse his Achilles injury. But the franchise’s fans have to wait for his return no more as the 28-year-old forward will likely join his teammates on the floor against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night.
Davis is returning to a much different-looking Lakers team. Thanks to Andre Drummond’s arrival, the forward will be able to spend more time at the power forward position, where he feels most comfortable. How L.A.’s new frontcourt will fare in its first game together makes for possibly the biggest mystery ahead of the clash.
Davis will need time to get back in shape considering the length of his layoff. But he should instantly rejuvenate the team’s defense, which has floundered in the past few games. The Lakers allowed Utah Jazz to drain 23 threes in the 127-115 win at Staples Center last Saturday.
And when Rudy Gobert returned to the lineup for the second of the back-to-back clashes, they let the Jazz dominate the paint, where they outscored (42-32) and outrebounded (52-36) L.A.
As a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Davis can fill holes in the protected area as well as on the perimeter. But his presence should translate into dominance around the rim considering the Mavericks rank 20th in rebounds, including 27th in offensive boards, and 26th in points in the paint.
However, Dallas remains dangerous from behind the 3-point line. The Mavericks attempt the fifth-most threes and drill 13.8 of them per game, ninth-most in the NBA. That should make the Lakers’ backcourt vigilant around the perimeter, particularly coming up against Luka Doncic.
The Slovenian whizkid continues taking the league by storm averaging 28.6 points, 8.0 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game while shooting career-high 35.9% from downtown. That gave him a mention in this year’s MVP award race but was good enough for three wins in the last eight outings, sending Dallas into a tough battle to avoid the play-in tournament ahead of the playoffs.
The Lakers-Mavericks matchup rarely disappoints. But frankly, the result of the showdown won’t matter to the Los Angeles organization as much as having Davis, its own unicorn, hooping with the team again, even if it is only for 15 minutes.
Mavericks (31-26) vs. Lakers (35-23)
6:30 p.m. PT, Apr. 22, 2021
American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas
TV: TNT, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN L.A.
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Dennis Schroder
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Kyle Kuzma
PF: Anthony Davis
C: Andre Drummond
Key Reserves: Montrezl Harrell, Ben McLemore, Alex Caruso, Talen Horton-Tucker, Wesley Matthews
Projected Mavericks Starting Lineup:
PG: Luka Doncic
SG: Josh Richardson
SF: Dorian Finney-Smith
PF: Maxi Kleber
C: Kristaps Porzingis
Key Reserves: Tim Hardaway Jr., Dwight Powell, Jalen Brunson
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