Preview: Mavs welcome road-weary Lakers to end homestand
Earl K. Sneed previews the last matchup of the Dallas Mavericks' three-game homestand, as Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers come to town looking to break their winless streak on the road.
Preview: Lakers (6-7) at Mavericks (7-6)
Mavs welcome road-weary Lakers to end homestand
DALLAS — Much has changed for the Los Angeles Lakers since the Dallas Mavericks delivered an early-season message to the Western Conference power on Oct. 30.
Since ruining the L.A. debuts of three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard and two-time MVP Steve Nash while handing the heralded Lakers (6-7) a 99-91 season-opening loss on their own home floor, the Mavericks (7-6) have also rolled through an up-and-down roller coaster start, however.
Making heads turn after sprinting to the win in the Staples Center to start the season, the Mavericks haven’t been able to sustain constant success since without the services of 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavs also haven’t built the expected momentum that they anticipated, despite getting off to a 4-1 start.
Meanwhile, gone is former Lakers coach Mike Brown, who was quickly replaced by Mike D’Antoni after getting off to a 1-4 start. And with Nash missing the last 11 games with a bruised left shin, the Mavs will again have a golden opportunity to make an early-season statement as they welcome in a Lakers team that is playing its fourth game in five nights and trying to avoid its worst road start in 19 years after a 113-97 defeat Wednesday night in Sacramento and Friday night’s 106-98 loss at Memphis made it 0-4 in opposing gyms.
“I haven’t had a chance to see them play of late since we played them,” point guard Darren Collison admitted. “We understand they have a new coach and are probably switching things up on the offensive end, but as far as I’m concerned they are the same, good Laker team. Any time you’ve got Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, that’s a pretty good lineup.”
“Well, they’re different. System-wise they’re doing some different things,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle added on the Lakers since D’Antoni took over. “Their personnel situation is a little bit different now, because they have some guys that are dinged up. But they are still the Lakers and they’ve still got Bryant, Gasol and Howard and [Ron] Artest. These guys are still big-time players. It’s going to be challenging.”
The challenge is clear, but after Wednesday night’s 114-111 victory over the New York Knicks, the Mavericks head into Saturday night’s showdown with plenty of confidence as they continue to play without Nowitzki following his arthroscopic knee surgery on Oct. 19.
Bouncing back from a 105-101 loss to Golden state on Monday night to start their three-game homestand, the Mavs used a second-half charge to ruin former point guard Jason Kidd’s return to Dallas. But, after watching as their late 12-point lead against the Knicks was trimmed to as little as one, the Mavs acknowledge that they’ll have to execute for a full 48 minutes in order to finish up their homestead on a positive note before road challenges in Philadelphia and Chicago.
They'll try to carry that lesson into their matchup against the league’s leading scorer, Bryant, and his supporting cast
“We’ve just got to make better plays down the stretch offensively,” 2-guard O.J. Mayo said after leading five Mavericks in double figures with a game-high 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting and 3-of-7 from 3 against the Knicks. “And then defensively, continue playing hard. Even though we’ve got a 12-point lead with three minutes left, we've got to still put your foot down on them and keep them down until the clock is all zeroes.
“It’s very important,” he added. “We know it’s another hyped-up game for the city as far as having the Knicks come in with the best record in the league, and then you have obviously the Lakers – America’s Team – coming in. So, this is a great opportunity for us to draw more respect from our fans with this group and continue playing hard.”
Note: The Mavs will now conclude their three-game homestand Saturday night, welcoming in the Los Angeles Lakers. The Mavericks handed the Lakers a 99-91 loss in Los Angeles on Oct. 30. The game will air locally at 7:30 p.m. CT on Fox Sports Southwest. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.