The Los Angeles Lakers have been one of the most surprising teams in the NBA to start the season. Against a tough schedule including six likely playoff contenders, the Purple and Gold have somehow come away with a 4-3 record. In doing so, they have accumulated a three-game winning streak.
They will now look to expand that to four games against the Dallas Mavericks at 7:30 PM in what would be their first such streak since April of 2013, when the team clawed its way into the playoffs for the final time in the Kobe Bryant era.
The Mavericks have struggled to start the season, giving the Lakers a great chance of reaching that all-too-rare mark. Dallas has started the year at 1-5, only recently beating the Milwaukee Bucks in an overtime effort.
The Mavs will struggle to create efficient offense as they will be without both Dirk Nowitzki and Deron Williams. Their team will have a lot of reliance on recent free agent acquisition Harrison Barnes, who has produced thus far. However, he is not an elite shot creator and with defensive attention focused on him, the Lakers could hold the Mavs to poor shots, defensively. Julius Randle will likely get much of the responsibility to guard Barnes, who is currently primarily playing as the Mavs’ power forward.
Offensively, LA can have similar success. The Mavs’ defense has been up-and-down and their top ten defensive rating is skewed in large part by the Bucks putting up only 75 points in a close, overtime game.
Most notably, D’Angelo Russell should be able to fix his shooting slump against Dallas. He will be primarily defended by JJ Barea and will want to avenge the Lakers’ playoff loss in 2011 at the hands of the 5’8″ assassin.
Russell has not been posted up much to start the year, but this is a match-up which he can effectively exploit. Getting to the hoop for easier shots should allow Russell to get the confidence he needs for his perimeter jumpers to start falling again.
This game is a “should-win” for the Lakers, which feels both amazing and dumb to type. It’s been a while since any games were near givens for the Lake Show. That said, Rick Carlisle is a wizard and will have his team ready to give the Lakers trouble at STAPLES. Against the Suns, the Lakers did not play down to the competition and were able to win while leading nearly the entire way. That should be the plan again, tonight.