Feb 24, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Nash (10) passes the ball behind his back against Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) at the American Airlines Center. The Lakers beat the Mavs 103-99. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Game Five Preview: Lakers (2-2) @ Mavericks (2-1)

We’ve learned a lot about our Lakers just a week into the season. After a four games, we know the #BenchMob can save us, and our defense can doom us. The losses were extra painful — a blowout in Golden State and a collapse against San Antonio — but the wins were that much more enjoyable. Now, we’ll see a new challenge put in front of this Lakers squad as they’re presented with their first road trip, starting tonight in Dallas.

 

Last year, the Mavericks and Lakers dueled late into the season for for the last remaining seed in the playoffs, an odd circumstance for two of the greats in Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki. This summer, they jointly struck out on Dwight Howard, leaving them in a situation neither are necessarily used to. Both are predicted by most to miss the playoffs, a feat that hasn’t happened since Bryant and Nowitzki entered the league.

For the Lakers, Xavier Henry’s emergence remains the storyline of the season so far. After graduating into the starting lineup Sunday night, he did not miss a beat en route to 18 points, a team-high amount. Pau Gasol’s 16 points and 13 rebounds also helped pace the Lakers to victory. However, he admittedly was less than 100% with a respiratory illness. Pair that with Jordan Hill’s knee bruise, which was revealed in an MRI he underwent yesterday, Steve Nash’s constant battle against his declining body, and the injury concerns are starting to creep up on the Lakers.

 

For the Mavericks, a new-look team has them once again a dangerous offense. Monta Ellis and Nowitzki each are averaging 23.3 points a night in the young season. Shawn Marion, Jose Calderon, and Vince Carter are all in their own battles with father time while still putting up productive numbers. However, the Mavs sport a defense worse than even the Lakers, giving up 107 points per contest, 1.5 more than the Lakers. Their offense currently sits in 3rd for points per game, mimicking Mike D’Antoni’s current Lakers squad.

 

X-Factor of the Night

 

Shawne Williams. Bit of a wildcard pick, but with Williams starting, he’ll likely be matched up on Nowitzki from the get-go. In reality, he’s not a bad matchup for Dirk defensively. Offensively, if he can knock down open 3s from the corner – which is a big if considering how he’s played so far this season – he’ll pull Dirk from the rim and free up the lane for Jordan Farmar, Steve Blake, Steve Nash, Xavier Henry, and all the other Lakers guards.

 

Williams’ spot in the rotation is entering more and more limbo, and tonight might be one of the final nights to prove he belongs. If he continues to struggle offensively, he’ll like lose his minutes to Jordan Hill and it’s an uphill battle from then on.

 

Number of the Night

 

21. That’s the size of the lead the Lakers held at one point against the Hawks. But complacency and sloppiness had their way and the Lakers lead shrunk all the way to 0 before they finally pulled out a win. If the Lakers want to make the leap to a playoff team, they’ll need the killer instinct to finish off a team. They were in prime spots against both the Hawks and the Spurs and held on to neither lead. Tonight, they need to stay focused for 48 minutes in a hostile environment.

 

Prediction

 

The Mavs sport a high-scoring offense and a high-scoring defense. Expect a high-scoring affair, naturally, as a result. The Lakers struggled on the road once this year and I think it’s going to be a reoccurring theme. The Lakers come out flat and lose 109-99.

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Tags: Dallas Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki Los Angeles Lakers NBA Pau Gasol Shawne Williams Steve Blake Steve Nash Xavier Henry

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