This one is dripping with storylines, which doesn’t much matter when you’ve bet on the thing—you have money at stake, what more of a storyline do you need? Still, it’ll be a fascinating game to watch and if you think that doesn’t matter, put some money on Spurs-Pistons, watch it start-to-finish and get back to me.
Of the storylines, the most prominent is the continued emergence of second-year star Luka Doncic for Dallas, a player whose game—or, at least, whose output—most closely resembles that of Lakers future Hall-of-Famer LeBron James.
Doncic is 14 years younger than James but is averaging 30.8 points, 9.9 rebounds and 9.6 assists through 18 games. James is averaging 25.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 11.0 assists per game this season. Both figure to be among the leading MVP candidates at the end of the season, should the year continue to play out this way. The head-to-head star battle figures to get the bulk of the attention here.
But the Lakers and Mavs are playing well on the whole, beyond the James-Doncic battle. L.A., of course, has Anthony Davis, himself an MVP candidate with averages of 26.1 points and 9.2 rebounds.
Doncic’s second-in-command, Kristaps Porzingis, has been wildly inconsistent and averaged 18.7 points in six games before hitting the skids in his last two games, when he shot a combined 4-for-21 and totaled 17 points. Fortunately, Tim Hardaway Jr. has caught fire at the right time, averaging 20.2 points on 50.0 percent shooting over the last five games.
These are the league’s two hottest teams, L.A. on a 10-game win streak and the Mavs winners of six of their last seven games.
Mavericks vs. Lakers Preview
The Mavericks, incredibly, have averaged 124.0 points over their last seven games, with 48.1 percent shooting and 40.6 percent 3-point shooting. The Lakers will be a challenge, though, ranked fifth in defensive efficiency (102.8 points per 100 possessions).
The Mavs are the league’s most efficient pick-and-roll team, though they don’t use the play particularly much—it’s not a strength of the Lakers defense. Unfortunately for Dallas, one of L.A.’s strengths is guarding spot-up shooting, where the Lakers rank seventh defensively. The Mavs rank No. 2 in spot-up points, at 27.0 per game.
This game is rife with combatting trends like that one. Five of the last six Mavs games have gone over, for example, while the last four Lakers games have gone under. The Mavs are 6-1 ATS in their last seven games, while the Lakers are 12-4 ATS in their last 16 home games.
Even the intangibles are well-matched. The Lakers could be due for a bad effort after carrying the win streak since November 12, especially with a stretch of eight road games out of nine starting on Tuesday. It’ll be easy to overlook this one. At the same time, the Mavs are in the second of a three-game road trip and they’re playing in Los Angeles at 1 p.m. Pacific time. That’s a sizable disadvantage.
The key, though, is likely to be the Lakers’ 3-point shooting, which has carried the day (or 18 days, as it were) for them during this streak. The Lakers have made 40.7 percent of their 3s during the streak. Dallas, though, has guarded the 3-point line well in its last five games, allowing just 31.8 percent shooting from the arc.
Look for the Mavs’ perimeter defenders to throw off the Lakers’ shooters enough to cover the 6.5-point spread.
Mavericks vs. Lakers Pick & Prediction
PICK: Mavericks +6.5
OVER: 222 points
SCORE PREDICTION: Lakers 116, Mavericks 113