Los Angeles Lakers at Dallas Mavericks Preview

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

One riddle has been solved, for now: it'll be Pau Gasol & the Los Angeles Lakers versus the Mavericks in Dallas tonight. But can the Lakers get it together and take this road game?

Showtime: 5:30pm PT

Plot: We know who the Los Angeles Lakers will be tonight, a certainty that's been more of a luxury lately than anything else. However, seeing as this is a roster that's lost 7 of the last 8 games, I'm not so sure that's entirely reassuring.

The Lake Show travels to Dallas to face the Mavericks tonight, in a rematch of a 123-104 LA thrashing early in the season. The story of that game was sewn together by the same frayed threads that have resurfaced in the past few weeks: the Mavs shot over 50%, scorched from the three-point line and saw their guards go for titanic scoring binges. Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis missed just five shots between them, good for 42 combined points on 20 shots. The Lakers couldn't get consistent production from a roster that was still coming together, excluding a great shooting night from Nick Young. To be honest, there really isn't much of a story to tell here: the Lakers got blown out by a team that dominated them on every end of the floor.

Here we are two months later, and this game could look largely the same. With Cleveland's trade for Chicago's Luol Deng, Gasol is a Laker for now and almost certainly for tonight's contest. Despite all the talk of dealing him, Pau has been dominant the past three games, averaging 24/11/5 on 47% shooting. True, the Lakers have been toasted two of those three games, but it hasn't been on Pau offensively. The Lakers real weakness has been, you guessed it, defense.

LA hasn't been able to wrangle opposing guards even a bit over the past week, with Brandon Knight, Tywon Lawson, Randy Foye and Gordon Hayward looking like All-Stars and if not for a putrid shooting night despite open looks, Trey Burke might have joined their company. Part of this has been on Kendall Marshall, who has been fantastic offensively, but is still "figuring it out" defensively (which is code for "he needs to get much better soon"). The Lakers will not--I repeat, will not--stand a chance against Dallas if they cannot find a way to batten down Ellis and Calderon. This Los Angeles team fluctuates on offense from night to night simply based on the fact that this is a jump shooting team with little dependable inside presence outside of Gasol. They will have to start a little better defensively if they hope to turn their season around.

With the second night of a Texas two-step tomorrow in Houston, the Lakers will have to turn the page on Pau trade rumors for the moment and concentrate on the task at hand. Xavier Henry will not be with the team for at least a few more days, nor will obviously Jordan Farmar, Steve Blake, Steve Nash or Kobe Bryant. This Mavericks team is so-so both offensively and defensively, but can turn it up on either end any particular night. This is a winnable game for the Lakers, only in that I see a sliver of hope that they can prevail.

Not a bad summary for this season, is it?

--MAMBINO

--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino

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