The Lakers have won three straight, with Anthony Davis finally shaking off his early struggles and coming through with 69 points and 34 rebounds in his last two games, which included a gaudy 26-for-27 from the free-throw line against Memphis on Monday. L.A. will get an added boost from the return of Kyle Kuzma from a foot injury, bolstering a rotation that was badly in need of another scorer.
Just in time, too. The Lakers will leave the Staples Center for the first time this season, though their opener against the Clippers was technically a road game.
Like the Lakers, the Mavericks are also 3-1, but they’ve had a tougher row to hoe and have already beaten Denver and New Orleans on the road. The one loss was a tough one at home, to Portland, a game they led in the final minute before missing their final four shots.
Despite that solid early record, the Mavericks will be underdogs on Friday, with the Lakers standing 3-1 against the spread to date.
Lakers vs. Mavericks Preview
They haven’t played since January 2018 and much has changed in the interim for both guys, who were once rumored to be part of a potential swap for each other. In five career matchups against Kristaps Porzingis, Davis has feasted, with 35.6 points, 14.6 rebounds and 54.2 percent shooting. Davis averaged 10.4 free-throws in those games and finding a way to limit him without putting him on the line will be Job 1 for the Mavericks.
The Lakers are the best overall post-up team in the league, averaging 12.3 points on those plays, second in the NBA and getting 1.23 points per possession, also second in the league. No other teams runs that many post-ups and is still so efficient.
There’s hope for Dallas’ defense, though. The Mavs give up only 0.74 points per possession on post-ups, eighth in the NBA. While L.A. draws trips to the free-throw line 20 percent of the time on post-ups, the Mavs send post-uppers to the line only 7.4 percent of the time.
Of course, the Lakers have their own challenges, too. Porzingis is still shaking off some rust, but he has returned from knee surgery stronger and still an effective scorer, with 22.2 points per game. And guard Luka Doncic, despite making just 3-for-17 from the 3-point line in his last two games, is averaging 25.0 points.
If Doncic and Porzingis can hold their own against Davis and LeBron James, Dallas figures to have a big advantage on the bench, even with the return of Kuzma. The Mavs have gotten 46.5 points per game from their bench, third in the league. The Lakers are 26th at 29.5 points.
Coach Rick Carlisle has done some mixing and matching with his rotations but no matter how he sorts things, the Mavs will have significant punch among the reserves.
After four games in L.A., the Lakers figure to be well-prepared for their first trip. But going into Dallas to face a rejuvenated Mavs bunch won’t be an easy task, with the Lakers still working out some of their rotation kinks. The Mavs are getting 1.5 points (there are 2-point lines elsewhere) according to FanDuel. Take the points here.
Lakers vs. Mavericks Pick & Prediction
PICK: Dallas +1.5
SCORE PREDICTION: Dallas 108, L.A. Lakers 104