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Mavericks vs. Lakers Preview: 3 things to watch as Dallas takes on LA

All the Lakers did by becoming IST Champs was paint a big target on their backs. And all make $500k each, but still...

Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Heavy is the head that wears the crown, and Dallas is the first team with a shot to take down the newly-minted In Season Tournament winning Los Angeles Lakers.

Dallas will be on the second game of a back-to-back, after playing Memphis Monday night (a game they can hopefully run away with and get some rest for the starters. TBD as of this writing).

Dallas should have some refresh legs regardless of what happens in Memphis, as both Kyrie Irving and Grant Williams are hopeful to return to kick off the Mavericks’ two-game home stand.

Paint Pain Points

The Mavericks’ interior defense has been a sore spot this season - against the Lakers any deficiencies there will be glaring. LA is among the worst teams in the league beyond the arc, collectively shooting just 33.6% from the outside over their last team games. They’re making it work, though. They’re top-10 in total field goal percent on the strength of they’re at-the-rim shot-making. An area highlighted by Anthony Davis’ 41 points in the In-Season Tournament Championship game in which the Lakers went 2-of-13 as a team.

Even when they have a terrible night shooting, they rarely shoot themselves out of a game because they know they’re bad at it and they don’t take very many. If Davis is as locked in as he was during the Lakers NBA Cup run, it’s going to be a long night for young Dereck Lively.

Remember who you are

This season, when the Lakers win, their opponents shot 35% on 35 three-point attempts per game. In their losses, their opponents shot 37.3% on nearly 41 attempts. Making a good percent of your threes while taking them at a high volume? That describes Dallas to a T.

Dallas attempts more threes than any other team in the league this year at 43 per game, and they’ve been knocking down 37.2%. If the travel and tired legs don’t manifest in the form of an off night shooting, Dallas should have all the firepower it needs to get this win, despite the unfavorable scheduling.

Nation’s eyes on you

The Mavericks’ tilt against the Lakers will be perhaps their most talked-about game since they had the honor of defeating Victor Wembanyama in his first NBA game when they opened the season against the Spurs.

Like it or not, high-profile games matter if for nothing more than narrative reasons. Luka Doncic is averaging 31 points, 8 rebounds and nearly nine assists per game, but hasn’t won NBA player of the week for the Western Conference in nearly a calendar year, since January 2nd, 2023. Dereck Lively has slipped to 8th on the NBA Rookie Ladder. These kinds of in-season accolades are largely meaningless, but they’re the symptom of a larger issue, which is that Dallas doesn’t really have a signature win so far this season. Beating Utah by 50 is fun and all, but Utah is not very good. With how we’ve seen players embrace this new in-season tournament, you can beat there would be some extra chest-thumping in the locker room if Dallas can take down the “Champs” on national TV.

How to watch

You can broadcast or stream the game on TNT at 6:30 CST.