The Los Angeles Lakers draw a matchup with the Dallas Mavericks and rookie phenom Luka Doncic on Monday. Unfortunately, they’ll once again be shorthanded as they attempt to snap a tough recent skid without a few top players. While the Lakers have now dropped five of six games since Christmas Day, they’re looking to right the ship in this one.
Right out of the gate, the obvious bad news is that Luke Walton’s team will again be without both LeBron James (groin) and Rajon Rondo (finger). As Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times previously revealed, James will miss at least this game and Wednesday’s matchup with the Utah Jazz. He’ll then be re-evaluated near the end of the week.
But even beyond those two injuries, the big question currently surrounds forward Kyle Kuzma, who’s missed two games in a row now with a sore back. Kuzma’s status for the game against the Mavericks will be a key topic, as he could provide a much-needed offensive boost.
Early in the day, Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet revealed that Kuzma is listed as questionable Monday. We’ll likely know more on his outlook as the pregame action ramps up, with an update potentially coming either late in the afternoon or 90 minutes prior to tip.
UPDATE: As ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported, Kuzma will return to action against the Mavericks.
Let’s take a look at the Lakers roster and starting lineup for Monday’s game.
Lakers Roster & Starting Lineup vs. Mavericks
*Notates expected starter
C: JaVale McGee*, Tyson Chandler, Ivica Zubac
PF: Kyle Kuzma* (questionable), Moritz Wagner
SF: Brandon Ingram*, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Michael Beasley
SG: Josh Hart*, Lance Stephenson, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
PG: Lonzo Ball*, Isaac Bonga
If Kuzma is able to play, he’ll offer a big boost to a Lakers team currently sitting at 21-19 on the season. The last two losses with the young forward out of the lineup have been tough to swallow, as the first came at home against a struggling New York Knicks team. To follow that one up, the team fell by 22 on the road to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
One big area of concern, specifically with Kuzma out of the lineup, has been poor shooting by the Lakers. In the first loss, the team shot 29.7 percent from beyond the arc, a number increased by Lonzo Ball’s 5-7 night from 3-point range. The loss to the Timberwolves was even worse, as Los Angeles made just 36.8 percent from the field and 22.7 percent from deep. This included Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, JaVale McGee, and Ball shooting worse than 33 percent each.
Whether it be from Kuzma or the other members of the team’s core, the Lakers as a whole need to step things up on the offensive end against the Mavericks.
Lakers’ Key Names to Watch vs. Mavericks
Regardless of Kuzma’s status, a few things stood out over the past two games in terms of positives (to some extent). Michael Beasley returned from his excused absence and scored six points with four rebounds in just 12 minutes against the Knicks. He received additional playing time in the next game and made the most of it by scoring 11 points with five rebounds on 5-8 shooting.
Turnovers remain a concern for Beasley and there’s going to be inconsistencies in his play, but the forward’s ability to put the ball in the hoop is desperately needed currently.
Lance Stephenson has also stepped up a bit, scoring eight points with seven assists and four rebounds in 29 minutes in Kuzma’s first game on the sidelines. He proceeded to add an outing with 14 points, six assists and five rebounds in 27 minutes to follow. Most importantly, Stephenson has shot 9-20 over the two-game stretch.