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3 things as the Mavericks face the floundering Lakers

Luka has fewer and fewer opportunities to kill his darlings.

Los Angeles Lakers v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Dallas will roll into Los Angeles to face the Lakers as the two teams are at polar opposites of the vibes spectrum. The Mavericks are coming off a thrilling, team-affirming come-from-WAY-behind victory against the Warriors. No to mention Luka Doncic’s birthday. Meanwhile, Los Angeles is beset on all sides. Injuries, front office vs Rich Paul drama… oh, and their team just plain stinks on ice.

The game in LA is Dallas’ last stop on a three-game road trip they’ve been on since the All-Star break. With any luck, they’ll head home riding a two-game winning streak and look to keep pace in the unrelenting Western Conference standings, just barely holding off a surging Denver squad, and attempting to chase down Utah through the final stretch of the season.

Luka vs LeBron

After being selected by LeBron James with his first pick of the All-Star reserves, Luka will face off against his one-time idol for the first time this season after missing Dallas’ first matchup against the Lakers. In his career, Luka is 3-7 in games against LeBron’s Lakers. It’s safe to say any bit of the star-struck rookie LeBron played against in 2018 is long gone, but there are not many more matchups between these two for Luka to level the score. (Even less if LeBron joins the Mavs after drafting Bronny. Just saying.)

Luka’s numbers against the Lakers come up shy of his career averages (22 points per game, 31% from three), but it’ll be interesting to see how he comes out tonight. He’s been playing at an MVP level of late, even grabbing himself a Western Conference player of the week accolade… that said… he’s going to be coming off a night partying in LA for his 23rd birthday, so all bets are off.

To the rim

This season, only the San Antonio Spurs are surrendering more shots within five feet from the rim than the Lakers. Not only are opponents attempting 32 shots at the rim against LA, but they’re making them at a solid 63%. Being without Anthony David certainly won’t help matters.

It could be a chance for Dallas to work for some easy buckets. It’s hard to argue with a winning formula, but over the last 10 games, Dallas has attempted the fewest shots at the rim in the league — just 22.6 per game. With Kidd experimenting with lineups featuring all of Doncic, Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie, three players with the ability to get to the rim, this game against LA could be a good opportunity to massage those numbers a bit and not depend on as many jumpers.

Battle of the Dwights

Another trend over the past 10 games, aka, the last time Kristaps Porzingis was in a Maverick uniform, Dallas has been struggling to rebound the ball. As it happens, the Lakers are in no better shape. They rank 26th and 24th in the league over that span, pulling in just 48% of available rebounds.

LA will miss Anthony Davis and are trying to squeeze starting minutes out of Dwight Howard. Similarly, with Porzingis out of town, the starting center position has more often than not been filled by Dwight Powell. This season, Howard is averaging nearly twice as many boards as Powell per 36 minutes. It’ll need to be rebounding by committee for Dallas — especially if we see more of the small ball lineup Kidd ran out against the Warriors to spark the comeback.

How to watch

You can watch the broadcast on TNT at 9:00 p.m. CST.

Here’s our latest Moneyball Minute, a quick show about the latest news between games and a look ahead at this very Mavs Lakers game. Please go to wherever you find podcasts and subscribe to Mavs Moneyball Podcast.