After a lengthy All-Star break, most NBA teams will come back refreshed and focused, while the Dallas Mavericks return with a cloud of scandal on their heads. After a whirlwind of bad news hits the team, the Mavs try to focus on basketball as they take on the Los Angeles Lakers tonight at the Staples Center.
Last time we checked in on the Mavs, they had lost four out of five games going into the All-Star break, but their sole win in that stretch was a victory over the Lakers in Dallas back on February 10th. Spoiling Isaiah Thomas’ strong debut, the Mavs won in the end by executing in the fourth quarter, something that has been rare this season.
If the Mavericks want to get back on track, execution is going to be the key against this Lakers team. This is where you want Dennis Smith Jr. to get out here and put up a great performance. In the games before the break, Smith was doing decently on the stat line but continued to turn the ball over. Tonight he will have to protect the ball as two very good guards will try to defend him in Thomas and Lonzo Ball.
While Ball isn’t expected to play much, the Mavs should pay close attention to Thomas. In his first game as a Laker, he scored 16 of his 22 points in the first half against the Mavs. Yet, since then he scored 3 and then 7 points before the break. Dallas shouldn’t be lulled to sleep despite his unimpressive numbers, give Thomas any openings he will make you pay.
One Laker player to have a circle around is forward Julius Randle, who has lately been on a tear. The Dallas native is averaging 23 points and 7 rebounds in the last three games. This is going to be the problem spot for the Mavericks as they still have no one down low that can guard any big men.
If the Mavs want to win this game, they need to get better play out of their bigs and win on the boards, or Randle is going to add another big game against his hometown team on his resume.
It will be nice to see if the Mavs can use a victory to get past all the scandal that has been plaguing the franchise this week. Tune in tonight on ESPN to find out. Tip-off is at 9:30 CST.
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