Fresh off winning the first-ever NBA Cup championship in Las Vegas, the Lakers are back to the regular season grind which will resume in Dallas against the Mavericks. This will be L.A.’s first game of a back-to-back and their second tilt versus the Mavs this season.
Start time and TV schedule
Who: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Dallas Mavericks
When: 4:30 p.m. PT, Dec. 12
Where: American Airlines Center
Watch: TNT/Spectrum Sportsnet
The last time these two teams faced each other was exactly three weeks ago when the Mavs came out on top despite the Lakers’ frantic 20-point comeback in the fourth quarter. At that time, L.A. was playing on the second night of a back-to-back and didn’t have Jarred Vanderbilt or Cam Reddish. Meanwhile, Dallas was coming off three days of rest and pretty much had their roster intact.
Fast forward to the present and a lot has happened with the Lakers winning six out of their last eight games and finally getting Vanderbilt and Reddish back in their rotation. And oh, Los Angeles also concluded an undefeated run to become the inaugural in-season tournament champions.
More importantly, though, the Lakers finally got a glimpse of what they look like with everyone but Gabe Vincent healthy. Spoiler: they’ve looked very good, especially defensively.
As for the Mavericks, they suffered an unfortunate setback recently in the injury of their superstar Kyrie Irving — who reportedly doesn’t have a return timetable yet — on top of three of their rotation players nursing their own injuries as well.
The Mavs have split their last six games (3-3) but will most likely look like a different team moving forward without their second-best player. Here’s what their injury report looked like ahead of their matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday:
Dallas Mavericks Injury Report vs. Memphis Grizzlies:— Grant Afseth (@GrantAfseth) December 10, 2023
Kyrie Irving - out (right heel contusion)
Grant Williams - out (right knee bone bruise)
Josh Green - out (right elbow sprain)
Maxi Kleber - out (right small toe dislocation)
Dexter Dennis - out (G League)
Greg Brown III - out… https://t.co/FX9M3IPNzq
That’s not to say that the Mavs should be taken lightly but it’s fair to think that the Lakers will have the competitive advantage in this one. Dallas will be traveling overnight from Memphis and will be playing on the back end of a back-to-back while the Lakers have had two days off since departing from Las Vegas.
Aside from that, there are a couple of factors to consider heading into this one.
Is there such a thing as an In-Season Tournament hangover?
Perhaps the only unfortunate part about winning the NBA Cup is that it doesn’t impact the team’s regular season standing and stats. So yes, Anthony Davis’ phenomenal 41-point, 20-rebound, 5-assist, 4-block performance won’t be considered in the record books outside of the IST.
The Lakers and Pacers will also be the only two teams who will play 83 games this season since they made it that far.
Surely, the money that every single player from both teams received makes that consequence worth it. But note that AD and LeBron James — who suffered a couple of bumps and bruises during last Saturday’s IST finale — played 41 and 35 minutes, respectively.
The energy and effort they and the rest of the team put into that game was worth it, but will it impact how they perform against Dallas on Tuesday?
Speaking of standings and stats, Dallas is currently sitting at the No. 3 spot in the Western Conference standings and is a game above the fifth-seeded Lakers thanks to their victory last November. Note that these two teams will only face each one more time after Tuesday, so if L.A. loses on Tuesday, Dallas will claim the tie-breaker advantage for the season.
Given how competitive the West is, now is the time for the Lakers to take advantage of a Mavs team that will be in their most vulnerable state yet this season. This game will be important in terms of tying that tie-breaker and continuing to rise up to a safe spot in the Western Conference standings, which will be vital by the end of the regular season.
Another opportunity to watch this Lakers defense cook
Whether you’re a Lakers fan or not, it’s hard not to admire how the Lakers’ defense has been thriving since Vanderbilt and Reddish returned. The Lakers’ defense was a big reason why the New Orleans Pelicans suffered their fourth-worst loss in franchise history and what propelled them to beat Indiana. It’s gradually become a massive part of the identity that the team continues to build on.
Pacers have the top ranked offense in the league and historically the most efficient offense ever with a 123.5 offensive rating. In the IST title game the Lakers held them to an offensive rating of 102.8.— Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) December 10, 2023
Dallas won’t be the same offensive powerhouse without Irving but Luka Doncic is still Luka Doncic and it’s going to be interesting to see whether or not the Lakers contain him the way they did with Tyrese Haliburton. Who takes on the assignment of guarding Doncic? I suspect it’ll be Reddish and Vanderbilt, who were significantly missed in the previous matchup.
The Lakers will also have to guard the three-point line really well as the Mavs still lead the league in three-point attempts per game. They also can’t allow them to score 15 fast break points and give them 13 second-chance points again. Lastly, expect AD to play better in this one considering that he only had 10 points against the Mavs last November.
Let’s see if the Lakers carry over their performance and the momentum they built in Las Vegas as they get back to regular programing.
Notes and Updates:
- The Lakers will play the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, so it would be ideal if they follow the script they’ve been doing on the first night of their back-to-backs this season, which is to come out aggressively and put their opponents to bed early so they load manage by the latter part of the game. One can hope that they get the luxury to do that against this Dallas team.
- For the Lakers injury report, Gabe Vincent (left knee effusion), Maxwell Lewis (G-League assignment) and Jalen Hood-Schifino (low back spasms) are listed as out. Meanwhile, Anthony Davis (left adductor/hip spasm), LeBron James (left calf contusion) and Jarred Vanderbilt (left heel bursitis) are questionable.
Jalen Hood-Schifino is listed as out for the Lakers against the Mavericks with low back spasms. It’s something that led to him missing a handful of games at IU last year too pic.twitter.com/Y1RPvd7EhS— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) December 12, 2023
- The Mavs haven’t released an injury report yet but expect Kyrie Irving (right heel contusion), Grant Williams (knee), Maxi Kleber (toe) and Josh Green (right elbow sprain) to be out.
You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani