Dallas at L.A. Lakers
Time: 9:30 PM CT, NBA LP
Spread: LAL -4
Odds c/o Bovada
The Dallas Mavericks have been surprisingly decent at 10-9 and in second place in the Southwest Division. It now travels to face LeBron James and the L.A. Lakers at Staples Center, where it will be four-point underdogs according to NBA oddsmakers at bookmaker Bovada. The over/under is set at 223 points for the game, which will air at 9:30 PM CT for NBA League Pass subscribers.
The story in Dallas has largely been the play of sensational rookie Luka Doncic. He leads the team in scoring at 19.1 points per game, while adding 6.5 rebounds and ranking No. 2 on Dallas in assists at 4.2 per game. Dennis Smith Jr. plays alongside Doncic in the backcourt, and while he initially had trouble settling in with the sensational rookie, Smith seems to be benefiting from making plays to Luka while he plays off the ball. Smith is averaging a team-best 6.2 assists per game while adding 13.9 points and 2.8 rebounds per night.
And the Mavs have done all of this entirely without superstar Dirk Nowitzki. While no one is sure exactly what Dirk has left in the tank, the Mavericks are turning towards the future with Smith and Doncic. Even Harrison Barnes has been efficient (by his standards) and ranks No. 2 on Dallas in scoring at 16.8 points per game.
Veterans Wes Matthews and DeAndre Jordan round out a solid starting lineup, and Jordan is doing his part to prove he can thrive without Chris Paul feeding him lobs. Jordan is averaging 11.5 points and 13.3 rebounds per game while adding 1.68 blocks/steals, in a down year for his shot blocking. Dallas is a much better team than expected, but for those in tune with Doncic’s amazing play overseas prior to coming to the Association, perhaps this is not such a huge surprise after all.
The Los Angeles Lakers have lost two of its past three, and the defense has continued to be a problem. The Lakers gave up 108 points to the Orlando Magic in a loss and then came back to surrender 117 to the Denver Nuggets in another loss. It was better last outing when it held the Indiana Pacers to just 96 points, in a 104-96 victory to snap its two-game skid.
LeBron James has been just as culpable as any on the defensive end. His defense has sagged and lagged, but he is still doing his thing on the offensive end, naturally. As James ages, we will see different aspects of his game fall off, and the defense and rebounding are typically the first to go with aged legends. He is averaging eight rebounds a game, which is solid, but unspectacular by his standards…but James still accounts for 28.1 points per game and 6.7 assists, while posting a PER Of 27.1.
Kyle Kuzma has started alongside him at power forward, and Kuz is really looking like the stretch-4 the Lakers thought he could be when it surrendered Julius Randle and went a different direction with Kuzma. He is averaging 16.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.5 assists while shooting 47 percent from the field and 29 percent from three-point range.
The Lakers attempt 29.4 threes per game, but it connects on just 10.1 which is at a 34.5 percent clip. L.A.’s defense ranks in the bottom third of the NBA in allowing 112.1 points per game, while the Lakers barely manages to outscore that at 112.3. Still, at 12-9, there is enough reason for optimism on the grounds that James can get this gang going when it matters and still find its way into the postseason—where, as the proverbial saying goes, “Anything can happen.” James has appeared in the last eight NBA Finals, but this might be his first year to snap that streak with a team that simply does not compare to some of the star-studded casts he played with, in Miami, and even in Cleveland.