NBA Sunday Showcase: Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers (38-22, 24-6 home) may still have last year’s playoff exit at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks (34-26, 13-16 away) in the back of their minds, but they’ll get a great opportunity to continue the road to redemption by sweeping the defending NBA Champions in the 4-game regular season series if they can overcome in today’s game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, with tip-off set for 3:30 PM ET.

For the Dallas Mavericks the season after the biggest accomplishment in franchise history has been anything but a smooth ride. From the disastrous trade involving Lamar Odom, which ended this past week in the players’ dismissal from the team after a poor season of half-efforts, to struggles finding ways to score on the road, the Mavericks find themselves in a none-too-secured race in the Western Conference playoff picture, currently sitting as a 6th seed with just a 1 1/2 game advantage over both 7th place Houston and 8th place Denver. Scoring production has been a key problem for the Mavericks especially on the road, with the team ranking 20th in the league at 95 points/game, and just 93.4 points/game away from their home court. Against a Los Angeles Lakers team that has been exceptional at home, and has won 4 of their last 5 games there, Dallas will seek to boost their own scoring production on the road, and also try to find a way to stop the Lakers from putting up big numbers, with L.A. putting down just over 98 points/game and holding the Mavs to just 84.6 points/game in the 3 meetings this year to date. Fortunately for Dallas, the Los Angeles Lakers will once again be without their team leader and top scorer Kobe Bryant, who continues a stint on the bench with a lingering shin injury. Having Bryant’s league-leading 28.1 points/game off the court may be just the thing Dallas needs in order to avoid a 4th consecutive loss to the Lakers this season.

Despite the Lakers being without the services of Kobe Bryant, they’ve still managed to secure a 3-game winning streak, with an impressive victory at San Antonio and at home against Denver on Friday coming with hugely improved performances by Los Angeles’ supporting cast. Metta World Peace in particular continues to be the biggest surprise for the Lakers, scoring 26 points on 10-for-15 shooting in the 98-84 road win against the Spurs last Wednesday, and averaging 18 points per game over the last 5 contests. After what has been a poor season overall for the player-formerly-known-as Ron Artest, especially highlighted by his awful 3-point shooting game (which has been boosted up over 30 percent on a late season surge despite shooting around 22-23 percent for the majority of the year), seeing World Peace shoot at nearly 50 percent from 3-point range over the past two weeks certainly has given a boost to the Lakers, who continue to rank near the bottom of the league in bench scoring and in 3-point shooting. It’s perhaps a blessing in disguise for Los Angeles to be playing a few games without Bryant down the home stretch, as confidence amongst their bench players and a reduced reliance on one game-changing player has seen the Lakers get a much more balanced scoring effort across the board that should pay dividends into the postseason. That could especially be important in this series in particular, as if the two teams stay where they are in the Western Conference playoff race (L.A. is 3rd, Dallas is 6th currently), they’ll be primed to meet in the first round of the NBA playoffs set to begin in just a few short weeks.

The battle of the boards will again play a huge factor in today’s clash of Western Conference foes, as the Los Angeles Lakers truly are one of the league’s elite rebounding team behind the twin towers of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, both of whom are averaging north of 10 rebounds per contest. Bynum in particular has had two consecutive performances that have helped him to solidify his position as one of the elite players in the game, first racking up an appalling 30 rebounds against San Antonio last Wednesday, then responding with scoring 30 points against Denver as the Nuggets put all assets towards stopping Bynum from having success on the boards (held to 8 rebounds in that contest, 4 below his average). Of note, Bynum has averaged 23.7 points and an incredible 13.7 rebounds per game in his last 6 contests. Combined with Pau Gasol, who has 4 double-doubles in the past 5 games and has averaged 22.5 points and 10.7 rebounds in the four games that Kobe has sat out, Los Angeles should have a key advantage against Dallas, as they already average about 4 rebounds/game more than Dallas does. Add that to the improving game for Matt Barnes (who scored a season-high 24 against Denver) and a bounce-back game looking likely for Ramon Sessions (after a rough 1-for-7 night against the Nuggets), and the Lakers should like their chances at home against Dallas, even without their top scorer in tow.

Dallas meanwhile has also been picking up steam down the home stretch, winning their last 3 games in a row after dropping 3 of the previous 4 contests, and will look to once again get balanced scoring in their offense today. That has been an issue against Los Angeles this year, as the Mavs have struggled to get double-digit scoring from a multitude of players, with no more than 3 players going into double figures in the first three meetings with the Lakers. Dallas does only have 3 players in double figures for scoring on the season (Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Shawn Marion), but lately improved play from Vince Carter, Delonte West, Rodrigue Beaubois and particularly Brandan Wright (who is averaging nearly double his 7.1 points/game over the past 5 contests) has seen Dallas able to call on a lot of different players to contribute, with 5 players in double figures for each of the last 3 wins. As Dallas has struggled to find scoring rhythm against Los Angeles this year, getting step-up play from the periphery will be a huge key for them on the road tonight, especially against one of the toughest home teams in the league. While there’s little doubt that players like Dirk Nowitzki (averaging 21.2 points, 6.7 rebounds/game) and Shawn Marion (11 points, 7.4 rebounds) will be critical in tonight’s match-up especially in the outside shooting game, with an improved Lakers’ bench performance likely coming, Dallas must step up and see a similar solid effort from their own bench, which has historically been solid.

Betting Lines for the Los Angeles Lakers vs. Dallas Mavericks at TopBet Sportsbook

The betting lines for today’s clash of Western Conference powers is as tight as you’ll find, with the money line showing the Los Angeles Lakers as just a slight favorite at -120 odds, while the Dallas Mavericks are underdogs at EVEN money straight up. Head-to-head L.A. is 3-0 straight up against Dallas, and are 24-6 straight up at home. Dallas hasn’t had great success on the road this season, going 13-16 away, but has won their last 3 straight road match-ups, and as mentioned before will face the Lakers without Kobe Bryant for the first time this season.

For online sportsbook betting on today’s game against the spread, the Lakers have just a slight edge with -1.5 points at -110 odds, while Dallas has a miniscule +1.5 points (-110 odds as well) to play with as underdogs). LA is just 14-16 ATS at home, while the Mavs are 14-15 ATS on the road this year.

Lastly for the over/under on total points, the mark to stay under or go over stands at 188.5 points. 2 of the 3 meetings between the two teams this year have gone under the mark, however the only other meeting between the two teams at Staples Center saw just 143 points in total as defense reigned supreme. With the Lakers holding Dallas to under 85 points per game in the three meetings, and Kobe Bryant absent from tonight’s contest, chances should be high that the under total points wager is the safest bet for over/under pickers today.

Make sure to check out all the available online sportsbooks for the best wagers on today’s showdown, which you can find on our NBA Odds Page for this match-up, and make your best picks on what should be a fantastic end to a great series between two of the NBA’s elite squads.

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