Pau Gasol / Dirk Nowitzki
Image: Ronald Martinez | Getty Images
Pau Gasol / Dirk Nowitzki
Photo: Ronald Martinez | Getty Images

January 7, 2014 —- 5:30 PM (PST)
American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (14-20) go on the road to battle the Dallas Mavericks (19-15) tonight and seek to shake off a very ugly loss vs. Denver Nuggets on Sunday. They gave up 137 points to the Nuggets. That number is unacceptable regardless of the opponent, especially the Nuggets who are not a very talented team this year in comparison to the rest of the Western Conference teams.

The Lakers will not win any games for the rest of the season if they continue to not put any effort on the defensive end. For Lakers fans, they find difficulty remembering the last time the Lakers scored 115 points in a game and still lose by more than 20 points.

The Lakers have also released F Shawne Williams today, in a cost-saving move to save the Lakers about $1 million.

However, the Lakers have many positive things working for them at this moment.

Lakers PG Kendall Marshall had another productive night, dishing out 17 assists while adding 9 points. Marshall has thrived in giving his teammates open shots and make great passes that only a true point guard can make.  Without another ball-handler available for the Lakers, they hope that Marshall will not get injured by playing too many minutes.

Also, the Pau Gasol trade rumor is finally over! For now. After multiple rumors that Gasol was headed to Cleveland Cavaliers for former Laker C Andrew Bynum‘s contract, the Cavaliers threw a major curveball, acquiring Chicago Bulls all-star Luol Deng.

Despite all the trade rumors, Gasol has looked much better on both ends of the floor, having more energy and looking as healthy as he has been in years. Forum Blue and Gold’s Darius Soriano mentioned that in Gasol’s last 10 games, he is averaging 18 PPG, 10 RPG, 4 APG, 2 BPG, with a solid 51% shooting percentage. Those numbers are very identical to his average during the Lakers’ championship run.

The Dallas Mavericks look to close out their 3-game home series on a positive note after losing their first 2 games. After overhauling their roster every season after winning the 2011 NBA Championship, the Mavericks have finally stabilized their roster by signing  starting PG Jose Calderon and starting SG Monta Ellis to multi-year contracts this off-season.

However, the Mavericks are still built around their franchise cornerstone, PF Dirk Nowitzki. Highly regarded as the best “stretch-4″ to ever play the game, Nowitzki has seemed to regain his old form after having a very poor season last year. Nowitzki has averaged 22.9 PPG, and 6.5 RPG, and shooting 49,8% from the field.

With Calderon, Ellis, and SG Vince Carter having the ability to drive to the basket and create their own shots, the Lakers have to make sure they stayed focused on the defensive end.

Projected Starters

PG – Jose Calderon Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Mavericks]

SG – Monta EllisJodie Meeks [Advantage: Mavericks]

SF – Shawn Marion Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Mavericks]

PF – Dirk Nowitzki Pau Gasol [Advantage: Even]

C – DeJuan Blair Robert Sacre [Advantage: Mavericks]

Notable Bench Players

Mavericks: G Vince Carter, F Brandon Wright, F Jae Crowder, C Samuel Dalenbert

Lakers:  F Nick Young, F Jordan Hill, F Ryan Kelly

Bench Advantage: Even

Injury List

Mavericks: Out-PG Devin Harris 

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-PG Steve Blake, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-PG Jordan Farmar

Keys for Lakers Victory

Defense, Defense, Defense: The Lakers failed on the defensive end vs. Nuggets allowing 137 points and clearly could not stop the fast break points, allowing 30 points, 22 of which came in the 2nd half. Now, we cannot expect the Lakers to give up 137 again, but if their defensive effort becomes as bad as it was on Sunday, tonight’s result vs. Mavericks tonight will result in a loss regardless of how well the Lakers play on the offensive end.

Bottom Line

Prediction

Hopefully the Lakers will play inspired basketball tonight knowing that Gasol’s still with the Lakers and that this season is not over yet. However, they are outmatched talent-wise by the opposing team again, so they have got to play very well on both ends of the floor, something they have not done so recently. Unfortunately, the matchup vs. Mavericks will not be much easier for the Lakers especially since the Lakers are trying to fix their defensive deficiencies.

Mavericks: 110-98