Preview: Lakers host struggling Mavs

The Los Angeles Lakers will host Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday. For LA, it will be a great opportunity to bounce back after a tough, near loss to the Jazz on Tuesday.

The Mavs have struggled to this point in the season, currently sitting 1.5 games behind the Lakers at 9-23. But much of that has been due to injuries which are starting to be put behind them.

Nowitzki is back after having missed the majority of the first third of the season. He has not been the Nowitzki of old so far this year, shooting only 38.5 percent from the field. Nevertheless, he has the potential to be a dangerous player at any point if this struggle is merely a bad shooting stretch.

Defensively, Dirk will be a prime candidate for the Lakers to exploit. The German will likely defend Julius Randle who gave him fits last season in one of his first games as a pro. Randle has an immense quickness and speed advantage over Dirk and should be able to take advantage of that. Randle has had some strong performances as of late, including a career high-tying 25 points against Utah. This could be another big game for him.

As a whole, Dallas has the eighth worst defense in the NBA this season and there are multiple matchups that the Lakers can use to their advantage. D’Angelo Russell may find this a good game to become a floor general for the Lakers by exploiting his mismatches or finding others around the court.

The Mavs also have the fifth worst offense in the league, giving the Lakers’ usually terrible defense the opportunity to put together back-to-back strong performances.

If the Lakers can make Harrison Barnes into an inefficient, volume scorer and keep the Mavs’ role players in check, this should be a win. But then again, they laid an egg against this team earlier this season.

The game will be televised on TNT at 7:30 PM PST.

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