Preview: Mavericks (34-26) at Lakers (38-22)
Earl K. Sneed reports from Los Angeles and previews the Dallas Mavericks' matinee matchup against the Lakers on Sunday as the defending champions try to extend their three-game winning streak and avoid a season series sweep.
Preview: Mavericks (34-26) at Lakers (38-22)
LOS ANGELES — After dropping the first three meetings this season against the Los Angeles Lakers, the defending champion Dallas Mavericks would appear primed and ready to snatch the fourth showdown as the two squads meet in a potential playoff preview on Sunday in a matinee matchup.
Sitting with sole possession of the sixth spot in the Western Conference playoff picture, the Mavericks (34-26) enter Staples Center matching L.A.’s three-game winning streak before meeting the third-place Lakers for a final time during the regular season. And with Lakers coach Mike Brown expecting to be without the NBA’s scoring average leader, Kobe Bryant, after missing the last four games with a bruised shin, the Mavs will look to avenge their three previous defeats against the team they swept through in the second round of last season’s championship run.
“We’ve played them tough this year, but every time down the stretch we don’t come up with the win,” leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki explained. “So, it will be a big game. I’m sure Kobe will play, to be honest. And they’re gonna fire everything at us, so we’ve gotta be ready.”
Ending L.A.’s two-year reign as champs last season, the Mavs have struggled to duplicate that success against the Lakers (38-22) in 2011-12. But the Mavericks figure to have a well-rested Jason Kidd at their disposal Sunday after the future Hall of Fame point guard sat out Friday night’s 97-94 win in Portland with a scheduled rest.
“It would have been good to have [Kidd] out there, but he rested and it was good to get out there and get a win with our point guard on R and R,” forward Shawn Marion said.
Without their floor general, the Mavs managed to jump out to a lead as large as 24 while dominating for three quarters. But after allowing 30 points off 21 turnovers, the Mavs had to scratch and claw their way to a third straight victory and 2-0 start to their four-game road trip.
“Just a bad finish, a couple of rough turnovers. I mean, we had the game basically under control. They made a couple of runs, but I thought we withstood those runs pretty good until all the way at the end,” Nowitzki explained. “A couple of high school turnovers there I turned it over like three times in a row, some bad lob passes with like 20 seconds on the clock and just some bad decision-making going on. It’s kind of frustrating, 'cause we played a heck of a game. We competed, we played hard … but that end left a little sour taste in our mouths.”
And it’s those kinds of costly miscues that Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle says can’t happen again in Sunday’s meeting with the Lakers as the reigning titleholders try to send a message should the two teams meet again in the playoffs.
“We made mistakes. We made a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes, but we survived it. So, that’s a positive and we’ve gotta get ready for the next game,” Carlisle said.
“The first three quarters, they were good. But it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. We didn’t finish well, and that’s something we’ve gotta take care of moving into Sunday,” new addition Delonte West added after posting 21 points on 10-of-17 from the field, dishing out seven assists and grabbing three steals to balance out six turnovers himself while playing 44 minutes in place of Kidd.
Meanwhile, with Kidd back in the lineup, the Mavs will try to continue their balanced production of late.
At least five Mavs have scored in double figures in each of the team’s three straight wins. The Mavs hope that trend continues Sunday, after no more than three players scored in double figures during their three losses to the Lakers.
Note: The Mavericks return to action Sunday in the Staples Center against the Lakers, looking to avoid a sweep in the four-game season series. The Lakers have won all three previous meetings. The game will air nationally on ABC at 2:30 p.m. CT.
The Mavs return to the American Airlines Center on April 18 when they play host to the Houston Rockets. The Mavs lead the season series 2-0 and will go for the sweep. That game will air locally on TXA 21 at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS.
Single-game tickets for the first two Mavs home games of the first round of the playoffs are now on sale. Tickets are available online at mavs.com, via phone (214-747-6287 or 1-800-4NBA-TIX) or at the American Airlines Center north box Office. Ticket prices start at $12 and up and there is a four-ticket limit per game.
Dates and times for the first two games have not been announced but will be posted on mavs.com by April 27th.