The Los Angeles Lakers take on the Dallas Mavericks on Christmas, hoping to get their first win of the season after falling to the Clippers on opening night. The defending champs will have LeBron James who rolled his ankle in the season opener and will face a Mavs team without Kristaps Porzingis.
Still, head coach Frank Vogel is not looking past Dallas. Speaking to the media ahead of the matchups, Vogel said he considered the Mavericks “one of the top teams” in the Western Conference behind their star play in Luka Doncic and “one of the best coaches in the league” Rick Carlisle.
The Mavs only finished as the seventh seed last year and were dispatched by the Clippers after giving them some trouble early on. But that seeding may not be totally indicative of how good they were; in fact, they finished the regular season with the third-best net rating in the West behind the Clippers and Lakers, more than two points per 100 possessions better than the fourth-best Rockets. A lot of pundits expect them to be a lock for the playoffs this year as Doncic continues to grow in his superstar role.
Vogel also divulged some of his philosophy in how the team may guard Doncic:
Frank Vogel on things the Lakers need to key in on w/matchup with Luka: "Comes down to helping enough, but not over-helping."
Vogel also mentioned the challenges of finding the balance of slowing him down and keeping other players in check.
— Alex Regla (@AlexmRegla) December 24, 2020
Frank Vogel wouldn't divulge too many details from his defensive game plan, but he said the Lakers plan on using multiple defenders — including AD — on Luka Doncic, and that their overall defensive approach is "help without overhelping" off of shooters.
— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) December 24, 2020
The Lakers allowed Paul George, and to a lesser extent Kawhi Leonard, to go off on Tuesday as they still work out the kinks in their defensive schemes and coverages. With new players still learning the team’s system, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Doncic take advantage of the Lakers’ drop coverages.
Regardless, it should be a fun matchup between one of the league’s top young stars and the defending champs as they each look for their first win of the season.