The Dallas Mavericks (32-29) are set to face the Los Angeles Lakers (28-32) as both teams are aiming to string wins together during a pivotal stretch on the schedule. For Dallas, it is a chance to protect their home floor and showcase their new backcourt on national television. For LA, it is a chance to build further post-deadline momentum as they explore life after Russ.
The Mavericks cruised at home in their first post-All-Star break contest, defeating the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night at the American Airlines Center, 142-116. In a game that felt too close for comfort through three quarters - given the Spurs' place in the standings - Dallas was able to pull away in the fourth quarter with Luka Doncic off the floor. The lead grew large enough for the Maverick superstar to remain on the bench throughout the fourth quarter.
The Lakers are looking for their fourth win in five games. With Anthony Davis back in the lineup, look for the stars on both sides to take this game seriously in front of a national audience.
The subtext drenches this game
We have already heard rumblings that LeBron James' effusive praise of Kyrie Irving at the All-Star draft was tantamount to lowkey recruitment. There may be some added juice on both sides as this game likely holds some abstract measuring stick vibes between the two most likely homes for Irving next season.
If James has begun to sour on Davis, daydreaming about a reunion with Irving is both understandable and annoying from a Dallas perspective. There is reason for optimism based on what we have seen on the court from the Doncic/Irving team-up. So much so that the best path forward for Dallas - given the investment they made in bringing Irving to Dallas - would be an extension rather than a sign and trade. The Mavs have finally concentrated roster talent into one player who can truly co-pilot the offense at an All-Star level. Keeping that in place beyond this season is imperative and that makes winning this game a bit more important than just another notch in the standings.
LA backcourt remains porous
The Lakers acquired Malik Beasley, Jared Vanderbilt, and D’Angelo Russell at the deadline. This move followed up on their acquisition of Rui Hachimura days earlier. This addressed three-point shooting with Beasley, point guard offensive from Russell, and wing defense and versatility with Vanderbilt and Hachimura. They did not - however - address their greatest weakness, perimeter defense.
For all their defensive shortcomings - to go along with the departure of Dorian Finney-Smith - the Mavericks have a defender in Josh Green that they can target at the opposition’s best guard. The Lakers have no one who fits that bill by performance or reputation after the departure of Patrick Beverley. Look for Dallas to expose the Lakers off the bounce as they repeatedly crank the blender against one of the more vulnerable defensive teams in the West.
Weezer Reference Goes Here
There was some hand-wringing over the flirtation and ultimate swing-and-miss on buyout free agent Terrence Ross. While the marquee additions of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving get the lion’s share of attention, it is an interesting notion to ponder as the final stretch of the schedule plays out - did the Mavs get the better buyout player because of the last-minute decision by Ross to head to Phoenix instead of Dallas?
As Justin Holiday was raining threes on the Spurs and inducing smiles from the Maverick bench, the thought surfaced that it is possible - if not likely - that he turns out to be the more valuable addition. We will be able to look back and make that assessment soon. For now, I’ll have Weezer stuck in my head every time Holiday goes on a heater
“When you’re on a holiday.”
Where to watch
You can catch the Mavericks and Lakers at 2:30 pm CST on ABC.