Lakers play the finale of their Texas two-step in Dallas

(Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

It is March 21, 2012 and the (28-18) Los Angeles Lakers are facing the tough challenge of removing the stench of a bad two-game skid and snapping a four-game winning streak of the (27-20) defending World Champion Dallas Mavericks. That challenge is much more daunting in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

The Lakers have a strong desire to place a pair of terrible, frustrating and at times unfathomable performances behind them. Andrew Bynum’s game ended early against the Rockets because of his own undoing, he owes the Lakers franchise, his coaching staff, his teammates, the Laker Nation and himself a better performance and much better control of his temper.

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Lakers are prepared to beat the Mavericks for the third time this season and 13th time out of 16 regular season games. To be successful, the Lakers have to raise their level of play and match the intensity of their opponent in a hostile environment, a task that the Lakers have had difficulty accomplishing with any consistency. The Lakers have posted a 9-15 mark on the road.

The Mavericks are hot, winners of four straight and five straight games at home. The barometer for the Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki, displaying a much-improved all-around game is averaging 28.5 points per game.  Overall, the Lakers are 7-3 against the Mavericks in their last 10 games. The purple and gold are 5-5 in their last 10 games at American Airlines Center.

In the first meeting this season, the game was over (73-70) when Lakers icon Derek Fisher knocked down a game winning three-pointer with 3.1 seconds remaining. In the second meeting, Derek Fisher scored a season-high 15 points and the Lakers lost the majority of their lead and were able to survive six consecutive missed free throws (nine in the fourth quarter) down the stretch to come away with a 96-91 road win.

Tonight’s game is matchup of two of the best defensive teams in the league. Tonight’s game could come down to defensive stops, rebounding, offensive execution down the stretch and turnovers. This is a game with playoff implications. The Lakers and Mavericks both are optimistic of home court advantage throughout the playoffs and a road win tonight works in their favor.

It is time for the Lakers to start Ramon Sessions and move Steve Blake back to his familiar role of leading the second unit.

Sessions’ is the fastest player on the court, his skill level and ability to attack on the pick-and-roll provides the Lakers an immediate impact. Sessions’ can be the difference maker for the Lakers if given the keys to the car. The Lakers have to play with a high energy level, take care of the ball, defend, own the boards and not let another teams reserve become a star tonight.

The Laker Nation knows what Lamar Odom brings to the table, he has had a rough season so far, the ‘purple and gold’ clad ballers need to make sure that tonight is not the night that he plays like himself. The Lakers need a strong contribution from their reserves. L.A. needs everyone in a purple and gold jersey to step their game up to come out victorious.

Starters

Lakers: S. Blake, K. Bryant, M. Peace, P. Gasol, A. Bynum
Mavericks: J. Kidd, R. Beaubois, V. Carter, D. Nowitzki, B. Haywood

Tip-off: 6:30 PM PST

Television -

  • Los Angeles: KCAL 9 (Bill Macdonald & Stu Lantz) & ESPN
  • Dallas: FS SW (Mark Followill & Brad Davis) & ESPN

Radio -

  • Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (John Ireland & Mychal Thompson)
  • Dallas: ESPN 103.3 (Chuck Cooperstein)

Injuries -

Lakers:

  • Metta World Peace (Left Hip Bursitis) Probable
  • Andrew Bynum (Bruised Right Knee) Probable
  • Darius Morris (Sprained Left Wrist) Day-to-Day

Mavericks:

  • Shawn Marion (Sore Left Knee) Day-to-Day
  • Delonte West (Finger) Out

 

Jeff Little is the pre-game writer for LakerNation.com. Follow him on Twitter.