Monday night the Dallas Mavericks (18-21) and the Los Angeles Lakers (21-19) meet for the first and only time at the American Airlines Center this season, as two slumping teams trying to get back on the right track. Both teams have only won three of their last ten games.
The Lakers have had the Mavericks’ number this season, winning the previous two match-ups out west (the first coming down to the end and being decided by a Mavs blunder). But the Mavericks have been a very different team at home than they are on the road, and are in desperate search of a win.
Here’s what we’re watching for tonight:
Luka righting the ship
Outside of the Phoenix Suns, the Los Angeles Lakers have been Luka Doncic’s toughest matchup this season. In their two meetings, the rookie sensation has averaged 10 points, 5.5 rebounds and six assists, shooting 27 percent from three and under 30 percent from the floor.
Whether it’s defensive scheming, just off nights, or jitters about playing across from his NBA idol LeBron James, Doncic wasn’t at his best at the Staples Center either time. This time around King James won’t be roaming the floor opposite him as he continues to battle injury. And with the comfort of being back in Dallas, look for Doncic to turn things around after an off night in Philly Saturday night.
Dennis Smith Jr. righting the ship
Dennis Smith Jr. has played six games since returning from injury. In the first four games he was an astounding 9 of 17 from three, averaging 14 points and four assists, scoring in double digits in each game, while playing some stellar defense. The finale of that stretch, showing out back home in North Carolina, playing his best game of the season (18 points, seven assists and three steals).
In the two games since, DSJ has been ice cold, going zero-for-six from three and scoring a combined 11 points. Like most Mavs this season, Smith has been better at home, and has only played there once since his return. He was solid last season against the Lakers and Lonzo Ball, and though the L.A. looks a little different this season, Smith and Ball will be linked by their draft class for some time. Expect Smith to show out for the home crowd.
Everyone else righting the ship
The Mavericks have done little to switch the storyline of being solid at home and horrific on the road. That gives one reason to believe that they will hit the reset button on some bad road showings (Charlotte not included) lately. It also helps that the Lakers are strapped with injury and in a real slump lately.
The Mavericks play with a different style and confidence in Dallas, and they need to find that again. Finding that groove might come through winning the turnover battle. Both the Mavericks and the Lakers are turning the ball over more than all but two teams in the league, coming in at third and fourth worst (15.4 and 15.3 per game respectively). If they can force the young Lakers players to cough the ball up, while limiting their own, the Mavericks may find some momentum to take in to the rest of a tough month of basketball.
How to Watch
Tip off is set for 7:30 CT, and can be watched on FSSW, the Fox Sports Go app, or NBA League Pass.