The Dallas Mavericks (17-16) host the Los Angeles Lakers (13-19) in the Christmas Day matinee game. Despite key injuries to both teams, this should be an exciting game with Luka Doncic facing off against one of his favorite players in LeBron James. This contest kicks off at 1:30 pm CST and has simultaneous broadcasts on both ABC and ESPN.
This is just the sixth Christmas Day game in Dallas Mavericks history and in the previous five games Dallas boasts a 2-3 record. The Lakers, on the other hand, are no stranger to games on Christmas, playing 48 matchups previously where they hold a 24-24 record. These two teams actually played the Christmas game back in 2020 as well, just after the NBA had resumed play a few months after the NBA Bubble championship ended in October. The Lakers throttled Dallas that day, 138-115.
Here’s some things to consider heading up to the game:
Luka Doncic vs LeBron James should be outstanding basketball
At a glance, this seems like it could be a bit of a disappointing match up. Injuries have piled up for Dallas, with the injury report growing longer with each game. Maxi Kleber, Dorian Finney-Smith, Josh Green, and maybe even Reggie Bullock may be out for the Mavericks. On the Laker end, Anthony Davis is dealing with a stress injury in his foot and is out indefinitely.
And yet we get to watch one of the greatest players of all time play against one of the greatest players of all time. Seriously, Luka Doncic loves playing against LeBron James and has his fair share of great shots against Lebron.
Luka over Lebron x Father Stretch My Hands pic.twitter.com/5QjXaRsBPj— isaac (@isaacappelt) March 2, 2022
And LeBron has had nothing but praise for Doncic. This summer on his show The Shop, he was asked what made Luka so special and replied, “His size. I mean he’s gigantic. A 6-8 point guard. He’s 225 pounds. He has the ball on a string. And more importantly, his vision. That’s why I love him.”
Considering neither team has a defender for the other, hopefully we’ll see the pair of superstars actually guard one another. And without any regular rim protectors for either team, hopefully we’ll get some highlight plays attacking the paint.
The Mavericks are clear favorites, but might be a risky bet
The Mavericks are currently projected as heavy 7.5 point favorites against the Los Angeles Lakers, according to DraftKings. Given the absence of Anthony Davis paired with the season-long road struggles for their Lakers (they’ve won just five road games in 16 tries), this seems like a reasonable line. And yet the Mavericks have been remarkably bad against the spread. Consider this:
- Against the spread this season, Dallas is 11-20-2
- Within that, the Mavericks are 8-17-1 as favorites and just 5-11-1 as home favorites
- They’re 13-4 as a home favorite straight up
So going off the history of this season, it’s reasonable to expect a closer game than expected with the Mavericks pulling out. That means we should perhaps expect a pretty fun basketball game.
Who plays defense in this game?
Defense is overrated in a regular season showcase game, but the two teams will still try. That said, it’s not clear where the defense is coming from. For the Mavericks, Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock are the primary defenders on star opposing perimeter players. One or both will be out. There’s some notion that Josh Green might play, but asking him to guard LeBron James is cruel. That leaves ... Luka Doncic or Spencer Dinwiddie to guard James? Oh no.
On the other side of the ball, who do the Lakers put on Doncic? Luka would send Austin Reeves back to the bench within minutes. Patrick Beverley stands no chance. Dennis Schroder, Lonnie Walker, Troy Brown, Russell Westbrook, or Jerry West, none of them can guard Luka. That leaves LeBron, but he’s old and asking him to do more than spot minutes isn’t fair at this stage in his career.
Then there’s the rim defense. Thomas Bryant and Wendon Gabriel aren’t cutting it for the Lakers. Dwight Powell and Christian Wood aren’t working for the Mavericks. There’s going to be a LOT of points in the paint for all players who can attack the rim.
How to watch
This game starts at 1:30 pm CST and is on both ABC and ESPN.
The Dallas Mavericks will tip off against Los Angeles Lakers at 1:30 pm CST. All nationally televised NBA games can be watched on Sling TV. And check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation.