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Lakers vs. Mavericks Preview: Most important road trip yet

The next few games on the road for the Lakers will significantly impact their record for better or worse.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers will play the Dallas Mavericks tomorrow, where they begin a tough three game stretch on the road, which also happens to be the most important (at least given the circumstance) of the season.

Not only are the purple and gold going up against their Western Conference opponents in hopes of improving their 28-32 record, but also the ones they’re attempting to catch up on in the standings. If the Lakers want to strengthen their Playoff push, like they’ve been saying repeatedly for the past few weeks, now is the time to do just. Because the next few games will significantly impact their record for better or worse.

The good news for Los Angeles is that this vital road trip ahead is happening at the perfect time, as they’ve arguably looked their best all season and are playing really great basketball as of late. The Lakers are coming off two straight convincing and dominant victories and have showcased the potential of their post-trade deadline roster.

Granted, it may just be a small sample size, and the mere fact that the Lakers just happened to stumble upon the shorthanded New Orleans Pelicans and Golden State Warriors, the stats as of late have proven that L.A. is trending in the right direction with their revamped roster. Allow me to share some insights about that:

  • In the past two games, the Lakers tallied an offensive rating of 118.4 per 100 possessions, which is considered 11th-best in the league while their defensive rating of 102.9 per 100 possessions is regarded as second-best. That’s a far cry from where they were (20th on offense and 17th on defense) before trading Russell Westbrook. Note that in the past two victories, LeBron James and Anthony Davis barely carried the offensive load and played less than 31 minutes in each game — a season low!
  • Speaking of James and Davis, the duo entered Thursday’s tilt against the Warriors averaging a combined 56.0 points per game this season. They both totaled only 25 points (the fewest as teammates in a win) in Thursday’s impressive 13-point victory against Golden State. Talk about the power of depth thanks to Malik Beasley’s 25 points (on 63.6% 3-point shooting), and the Lakers bench who combined for 68.
  • As if that wasn’t impressive enough, here’s another fun fact: Prior to Thursday’s game against the Warriors, the Lakers were 0-2 in games when James scored fewer than 20 points and 2-5 when AD didn’t score 20 this season. Three Lakers (Beasley, Austin Reaves, and Rui Hachimura) had more points than James (13) and Davis (12) on Thursday’s win — the first time in the 161 games they’ve played together that the duo didn’t rank among the top three scorers in a win.

So again, it’s certainly a small sample size but surely a beautiful and welcoming sight to see. As Reaves alluded to post-game last Thursday, the energy around this new team is at an all-time high right now, and every new addition has contributed something unique to the table. The Lakers potentially have something special brewing but as we all know, time isn’t on their side. Their current momentum will be put to a test against a Mavericks team who just like them, are figuring things out on the fly with their latest addition in Kyrie Irving.

Both the Lakers and Mavericks (32-29) look completely different compared to how they did in their last two meetings. The Mavs depend heavily on Irving and Luka Dončić to carry their offense, who both paved the team to score their season-high 142 points in their last game against the San Antonio Spurs. This is the game where James and Davis need to match Dončić and Irving’s scoring production, and it’ll be up to their corresponding teammates to help make the game easier for them and propel their team to victory.

We’ll find out if this new-look Lakers team can keep up with the Western Conference’s sixth seed and if they can commence an important road trip ahead on a good note.

Notes and Updates

  • In case you missed it, the basketball Gods have been really kind to the Lakers in the past 24 hours. The Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves all lost their corresponding games on Friday. So this means that if the purple and gold beat the Mavericks on Sunday, they can climb up to the 10th seed (play-in territory). Currently, the Lakers are just two games out of the seventh seed and three back of the sixth (Mavericks).
  • To beat the sixth seed tomorrow, the Lakers need to match the Mavericks’ scoring production (I can’t stress this enough) and find a way to expose their defense, where the Mavs haven’t really excelled in all season. It would be nice if the Lakers can make their perimeter shots in this game and win the bench production battle again. Prior to Thursday’s victory against the Spurs, Dallas was on a three game losing streak so they’ve had their fair share of ups and downs as of late.
  • The Lakers listed Anthony Davis (right foot stress injury) and LeBron James (left foot soreness) as probably for Sunday. Meanwhile, D’Angelo Russell (right ankle sprain) is doubtful to play. Scotty Pippen Jr. (G-League) and Cole Swider (G-League) will be with the South Bay Lakers.
  • As for the Mavs, Davis Bertans (left calf strain) and Maxi Kleber (right hamstring) are listed as out.
  • For news around the league, Russell Westbrook and the Los Angeles Clippers lost (176-175) to our old friend Malik Monk and the Sacramento Kings last night as both teams made history by playing no defense and scoring 170+ points each — the second highest in league history. It was a thrilling double overtime match and by far one of the best games of the season. You can read more about that here.

Adjust your schedules for this one because the Lakers and Mavericks will tip off earlier than usual on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. PT. The game will be televised nationally on ABC.

You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani.

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