I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I also hope you've recovered from that nail biter over the Knicks Wednesday night. The Mavericks (7-6) hope to send the Lakers (6-7) back to LA with a loss. Laker games, particularly home ones, tend to take on a special vibe compared to most other regular season games; the Mavericks have suffered a number of painful defeats against LA over the years as we all know, so any chance to push back against history is worthy of attention.
The first matchup in Los Angeles on opening night lead to a Mavs victory, 99-91. The Mavs slowly built on a two point halftime lead in the third and forth quarters until the game was out of reach for the Lakers. Only a final flurry after the benches had been cleared pushed the margin back to within single digits. Playing without Chris Kaman and Dirk, Carlisle saw his entire rotation contribute to the cause; nine out of ten guys who saw minutes scored at least seven points. The Lakers saw strong games from Pau Gasol (23-13-6 with three blocks), Dwight Howard (19 and 10), and Kobe Bryant (22 points) but it wasn't enough against the balanced Mavericks approach.
Since the meeting each team has had mediocre results on the floor. Steve Nash has missed time with a fracture in his leg. The Lakers fired coach Mike Brow and replaced him with Mike D'Antoni; the results since have been better, but Laker fans clearly want more. Dallas has seen the return of Chris Kaman, a win streak, a losing streak, and the evolution of O.J. Mayo.
With Nash and Steve Blake hurt, Darius Morris and Chris Duhon have been sharing time at point guard. Collison should look to build off his solid game against the Knicks by forcing his advantage against either point guard. Mayo and Kobe should prove fantastic; though Mayo shot poorly in the first game, he repeatedly got past Kobe and given his shift to attack mode as of late, I expect him to continue with this particular course of action. Shawn Marion on Metta World Peace should tilt towards Dallas, though Peace's defensive contributions should never be overlooked. I expect to see Elton Brand on Dwight Howard again; limiting him on the offensive boards is key. Kaman on Gasol should cause concern as Pau is one of the best big men on the planet. However, if Kaman can attack him on offense early, maybe Dallas can get him into foul trouble.
Defending the pick and roll will be hugely important; the Mavs were carved up by Raymond Felton Wednesday, and the D'Antoni offense involves so much movement and quick decision making the Dallas defense will have to be aware at all times. The Mavericks are no strangers to pushing the ball, so expect to see a fast paced game. The Lakers will be playing the second night of a back to back; with their limited depth the Mavericks must take advantage and try to get the Lakers into foul trouble.
With these Mavs I never know what to expect. Each game is a roller coaster. Making good decisions with the basketball and protecting the glass like they did Wednesday against a very good Knicks team can lead to success. Two early season victories against the Lakers seems like a lot to hope for, but we've seen how well the Mavs can execute when they focus. Let's hope they come ready to play.
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