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Lakers vs. Mavericks: Game preview, starting time, TV

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Finally, the Lakeshow is back... along with Lonzo Ball.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers are ready to face the final 25 games of their season, resuming play when the Dallas Mavericks visit STAPLES Center Friday night. LA is no longer the center of the NBA universe, life returning to normal for the purple and gold as they face the reality of their downward trend leading into the break.

The return of Lonzo Ball makes this game a must-see if you’re just getting back to the NBA schedule. That it’ll be his first time on the floor with Isaiah Thomas is a compelling side story to keep an eye on as well. A key area to watch with Ball is on defense, where the team has struggled in recent weeks.

Head coach Luke Walton made it clear defense is the number one priority in the final 25 games, hoping to end where they started. The once-stalwart defensive team has looked exposed without Ball at times, and shipping Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson out has had a noticeable impact.

Taking care of business at home in the first half of a back-to-back would be a great way to start the break. Hopefully the team has had a chance to reset their energy from a trying 57 games thus far. Even still, this Lakers squad is only a few wins away from reaching their highest win total in years. The further integration of Thomas, along with the return of Ball, could be an interesting jolt.

Overall it’s nice to be back with the Lakers, who had the All-Star break to settle into the changes and take a deep breath. We’ll see if that amounts to a win over the Mavericks, who are trending toward one of their worst season in 20 years. The Sports Illustrated bombshell report needs to be mentioned. Be sure to check out Mavs Moneyball for their deep insight and information.

Time: 7:30 p.m. PT

TV: ESPN, Spectrum SportsNet