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Lakers vs. Mavericks Preview: Blue Christmas

As impossible as it may seem, the Lakers must play better on defense than what they’ve done lately sans Anthony Davis, as it may be their only hope of stealing a win in Dallas against Luka Doncic and the Mavericks.

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Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

From all of us here at Silver Screen and Roll, Happy Holidays! We hope this 2022 holiday season is a joyous occasion for you and all of your loved ones. And most of all, we hope the Los Angeles Lakers don’t cause you to have a blue Christmas.

But if they are affecting your mood, even in the slightest of ways, I wouldn’t blame you! For the second season in a row, the month of December is as harsh towards the Lakers as a cold, bitter gust of winter wind.

Last season, the Lakers went 6-8 in the final month of the 2021 calendar year. This was mostly due to a rash of absences caused by COVID-19 (reminder that Isaiah Thomas and Darren Collison played for the Lakers around this time), but also because of an injury Anthony Davis sustained in the middle of the month when playing against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

In a case of deja vu, AD is hurt again, while those COVID-19 absences invoke the memory of what was likely the virus-spreading event for the Lakers in the Austin Reaves game-winner against the Mavericks. Fittingly in this continued case of deja vu, the Lakers now see those same Mavericks in front of them on this 2022 Christmas Day, with the team bringing a 5-7 record in this month with them to Dallas.

Can the Lakers reverse the tide and end this 2022 calendar year on a high note?

Away from home for the holidays

The Lakers may be in need of a Christmas miracle to do just that, as they now traverse on the second-longest road trip of the season thus far, starting with this Sunday game vs. the Mavs.

It’ll be a five-game trip, with the team not returning home until after their Jan. 2 game in Charlotte against the Hornets. The trip couldn’t be more ill-timed, either, as the Lakers have a severe issue with their defense they need to figure out. They’ve now given up 130+ points in three straight games, most recently 134 points to those same Hornets in an embarrassing defeat at home on Friday.

The obvious reason for that is the “stress injury” that Anthony Davis suffered in his right foot, as the Christmas Day game will be the fifth game he’s missed. Darvin Ham has to be desperately searching for answers within this team to try and replicate some of the impact that Davis brings to that end of the floor. Unfortunately, those types of answers are best found within practices, something the Lakers likely will not be doing before or during this road trip.

On the positive side of things, the Mavericks are only ranked 14th in offensive rating across their last 10 games (although maybe I should point out that the Kings are ranked 22nd in that span of time and they dropped 134 on the Lakers just a few days ago). They’re still struggling to get enough production on that end from guys not named Luka Doncic (31.3 points per game in his last 10 games), as the team sees a difference of 12.6 points per 100 possessions between when he’s on the floor vs. when he’s off.

If the Lakers are able to control Doncic’s scoring, they’ll have to hope the 3-point shooters surrounding him are nursing a bit of a Christmas Day hangover, as the likes of Reggie Bullock, Davis Bertans, and others will be waiting patiently around the arc to help sink the Lakers’ defense.

This game may actually be a little lower scoring than previous Lakers games, as the Mavericks' defense under head coach Jason Kidd has been rolling lately. They’ve held opponents to under 110 points in four of their last six games, including their current two-game winning streak where they held the Rockets to 106 and the Timberwolves to 99 while on the road.

Because of those performances lately, combined with the fact that the Lakers struggle more on the road compared to playing at Arena, one would be smart to assume that the Lakers’ offense will be taking a step back. With that in mind, can their defense control the Luka-centric offense that the Mavs trot out?

They must, as it’ll be the team’s only shot at avoiding just another blue Christmas.

Notes and Updates

  • Originally, Thomas Bryant’s availability for this game was very much in doubt after he grabbed at his shoulder after a play late in Friday’s game against the Hornets, left the game, and never returned. Darvin Ham said he would be reevaluated after the game, but in some rare good news for the Lakers this week, he is not listed on the team’s injury report, meaning he’ll presumably be able to play.
  • The Mavericks’ injury report includes a notable name in Dorian Finney-Smith (right abductor strain). It will be his third straight game out.
  • They will also be without Kemba Walker (left knee - injury recovery), Josh Green (right elbow strain), and Maxi Kleber (right hamstring tear). Jaden Hardy (back contusion) is listed as questionable.

The Lakers and Mavericks will likely tip off right after presents are unwrapped, as the start time will be 11:30 a.m. PT. The game will be exclusively shown on ABC/ESPN as part of their five-game Christmas Day slate, and remember, all nationally televised NBA games can be watched on the sponsor of this post, Sling TV.

Happy Holidays!

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Donny on Twitter at @donny_mchenry.

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