After seeing each other three times in less than three months, the Los Angeles Lakers (30-7) and Dallas Mavericks (23-14) will face off for the fourth and final time this season on Friday. However, due to injuries, Friday’s game won’t be as a star-studded as their previous matchups.
Kristaps Porzingis won’t be available for the Mavericks on Friday, as he’s still dealing with knee soreness. The Lakers have been able to make Porzingis a non-factor this season, but his shooting would have been a big help to Dallas, especially with Anthony Davis not playing with the gluteus maximus contusion he suffered against the Knicks. Suffice to say, Porzingis on Kyle Kuzma wouldn’t have been an ideal matchup for Los Angeles on either end of the floor.
Along with Davis, the Lakers could be without their starting point guard, Avery Bradley, who left Thursday’s practice with a fever. Bradley hasn’t had much success guarding Doncic one-on-one this season, as Doncic has shot 3-4 from the field when guarded by Bradley, but Bradley’s on-ball pressure has forced Doncic to take difficult shots. If Bradley is still feeling under the weather by game time, expect Frank Vogel to turn to Alex Caruso or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for some help on defense.
That being said, the matchup everyone will be tuning in for is LeBron James vs. Luka Doncic — old school vs. new school. Doncic may be 16 years younger than James, but James has still gotten the best of the second-year superstar in two of their three meetings this season. If James can do it again tonight, the Lakers will have bragging rights until next season, assuming these two teams don’t see each other in the postseason.
James will need some help, though, and if Davis sits out on Friday, the pressure will be on Kyle Kuzma to have a bounce-back game. Kuzma shot 33.3% from the field over the last five games, and this could be his best opportunity yet to show he belongs in the Lakers’ future plans.
Tip-off is at 5:30 p.m. PST on ESPN.
Notes and Updates
- As previously mentioned, Davis (gluteus maximus contusion) and Bradley (fever) are questionable to play vs. Dallas. LeBron James is the only other name on the injury report outside of DeMarcus Cousins, and James is listed as probable with flu-like symptoms.
- If Anthony Davis doesn’t play, Frank Vogel said after practice on Thursday that he will start Kyle Kuzma in his place.
- The Mavericks allow the most fast-break points (16.1) in the NBA, but only .3 separate them and the Lakers in that category. However, the Lakers are ranked second in the league in fast-break points (18.1), so that’s an area they should look to exploit on Friday. Of course, that effort will start with their defense.
- Speaking of defense, the Lakers are ranked first in the NBA in total blocks with 278. The team with the second-most blocks is the Portland Trail Blazers with 255. The Mavericks are ranked 21st with 175.