(Photo By: Ty Nowell/Lakers.com)
3 Things to Know: Lakers vs. Mavericks (2/23/18)
Here is what you need to know before the Lakers return from the All-Star Break against the Dallas Mavericks.
1) It’s about defense, with or without Zo
From the beginning of January through early February, the Lakers boasted the league’s third-ranked defense, allowing only 101.2 points per 100 possessions during a stretch that saw them go 12-4.
In the three games since, they rank last in the NBA, surrendering a whopping 124.1 points per 100. Unsurprisingly, they have lost each of these contests.
The Lakers will need to be much sharper defensively if they are to beat Dallas, which racked up 130 points on the purple and gold just two weeks ago.
Perhaps they will get a boost in this area via the return of Lonzo Ball, who is considered questionable due to a sore left knee that has kept him out for 15 games.
At 6-foot-6, Ball has used his size to become an above average point guard defender in just his first NBA season. He may be even more effective in the context of team defense, where he is constantly engaged and looking for a weak-side block or steal.
But it will take more than one player to shore up a defense that has bled points in three straight games, as all five Lakers on the floor will have to work in unison to eradicate the mental lapses that have plagued them recently.
2) Defenses can’t handle Randle
The most impressive Laker during Ball’s absence might just be Julius Randle, who has scored 20-plus points in three straight games for the first time in his career.
Randle has been a beast in the post, averaging 20.7 points on 58.8 percent shooting over his last seven outings.
His shooting range may be limited (31.0 percent on jumpers this season), but he hasn’t needed distance to be effective.
Instead, he has dominated matchups by bullying his way to the rim — on post-ups, off the dribble and in pick-and-rolls.
3) Lakers have unfinished business with Dallas
L.A.’s current slide began with a loss to a Mavericks squad that has now dropped 9 of their last 11 games. In order to get back to their winning ways, the Lakers will need to take care of business this time around.
Dallas clearly has weapons that need to be dealt with.
Dirk Nowitzki dropped a season-high 22 points on the Lakers, and is still one of the top shooting bigs in this league. Dwight Powell’s an elite pick-and-roll finisher who has been scoring in droves lately. J.J. Barea leads the NBA in assists off the bench.
All these pieces were enough to hammer the Lakers before the All-Star Break. L.A. will have to figure some issues out defensively in order to make sure that won’t happen again.
A big aspect of the Mavericks’ attack was their constant prodding at the Lakers’ switching defense. Keep an eye out for how coach Luke Walton adjusts if Dallas starts finding success.
Lakers: Lonzo Ball (sore left knee) is questionable. Channing Frye (appendectomy) is out.
Mavericks: Seth Curry (left leg surgery), Nerlens Noel (left thumb surgery) and Dorian Finney-Smith (left knee quadriceps tendinitis) are out.
Tip-Off: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet and Spectrum Deportes in L.A. ESPN nationally
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Unis: Black City
Location: STAPLES Center — Los Angeles, California