The Lakers return from their Texas two-step to face the Dallas Mavericks in a Sunday matinee at the Staples Center. The two road wins helped the Lakers win the Pacific Division title and a playoff spot, which is good, but not the prize the Lakers and their fans have their eyes on. This team is playing for the league’s best record and a championship.

The two road wins in Texas against two hot teams, allowed the Lakers to salvage the road trip, San Antonio is the second best team in the Western Conference. Coach Phil Jackson has made some changes to the starting lineup which has worked very well. I’ve been waiting to see Trevor Ariza in the starting lineup and it has happened and has paid huge dividends.

While it is nice to have a talent like Ariza come off the bench and bring the team energy, he has outplayed the starting small forwards and deserved starter’s minutes. The move allows Luke to come off of the bench and be the facilitator for the second unit in concert with Jordan Farmar.

The Lakers face a Dallas team that they’ve dominated, according to Elias Sports Bureau; the Lakers have won five straight games and 32 of 35 in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 106-99 on 11/11/08 and 114-107 on 11/28/08. The Mavericks currently hold the eighth spot in the playoffs and if things remain the same will be the Lakers first round opponent.

Despite this fact the Lakers can’t sleep on the Mavericks. The Lakers need to come out aggressive on both ends of the court with a contribution from everyone to take an early lead; the Lakers will be able to feed off of the home crowd. The reserves need to shoot   well to have an impact on the game.

Dallas allowed a season-high 59 rebounds and 28 second chance points in their last game. The Lakers need to outwork and out-hustle Dallas and top those numbers to send them a message. The Lakers trio of Kobe, Pau & Lamar Odom needs to score 65 points or better.

The Lakers have played Dirk Nowitzki well; the team needs to show him several looks defensively, keep him on the perimeter.

The team is playing to their advantage by establishing Pau in the post and letting him set the table for everyone else. Lamar has been inconsistent and needs to be more assertive and attack the basket. Do a better job defending the pick and roll play.

The Lakers have to control the tempo, the glass, stop the dribble penetration, get back in transition and rotate out to three point shooters.

Defensively is where the game will be won or lost.

Tipoff: 12:30 PM PST

Television

  • Los Angeles: ABC
  • Dallas: ABC

Radio

  • Los Angeles: AM570 KLAC (Spero Dedes & Mychal Thompson)
  • Dallas: ESPN 103.3 (Bob Ortegal & Chuck Cooperstein)

Injuries

Lakers:

  • Andrew Bynum (Knee)

Mavericks:

  • Devean George (Knee)
  • Josh Howard (Ankle)