The Dallas Mavericks were on the cusp of joining the Western Conference’s group of elite last season. Spurned by Luka Doncic the Mavs won 43 games and reached the postseason for the first time in four years. We’ll see just how far they’ve come when they square off with the NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas Day.
The NBA didn’t want to lose its coveted December 25 television audience, so the league fast-tracked a start to the new season just in time. It was just over two months ago when the Lakers secured their record-tying 17th NBA title behind the duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Mavs are looking for the same kind of success leaning on Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. The only problem is that K.P. has struggled to stay healthy and on the floor. When he is out there the pair has shined, and the Mavs could be a dark horse contender in the Western Conference.
Dallas Mavericks vs Los Angeles Lakers Odds
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Head to Head
To be the best you have to beat the best, and that starts with the Mavs knocking off the defending champion Lakers. They haven’t had a lot of success doing that lately. The teams actually completed their season series before the shutdown with the Lakers winning three of four games. LA posted double digit victories in the last two encounters covering the closing line each time. The run of success extends even further back with the Lakers going 8-1 SU and 7-2 ATS in the last nine meetings. After getting bounced around by the Clippers in the first round of last season’s playoffs, the Mavs felt they needed to toughen up and improve defensively.
Is it too early to make Doncic the face of the NBA? Without a doubt he’s been great in his first two seasons and the Mavs have improved dramatically with him on the floor. They won 33 games during Doncic’s rookie season, a nine-game improvement from the previous season. They had a 10-game markup last season getting their most victories in five seasons. Can the Mavs continue to rise?
Obviously the catalyst, Doncic nearly averaged a triple-double last season with 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game. The preseason favorite to win the MVP, Doncic will get a chance to show why he’s so highly-regarded. The Mavs open the new campaign minus Porzingis, who is still rehabbing from an injury he sustained during the playoffs. With K.P. out of the lineup last season, Doncic put the team on his back averaging nearly 30 points, 10.4 boards and 9.0 assists.
The Mavs have more depth than they did in the bubble. Dwight Powell and Jalen Brunson, both of whom opted out of the restart, are back. They added Josh Richardson for secondary scoring and wing defense and Maxi Kleber emerged as a talent with more opportunities. The Mavs will likely be better later in the season when Porzingis returns, but they are still a good team that will present problems.
Los Angeles Lakers
We don’t often see championship teams have as much turnover on the roster as the Lakers had. Of course swapping players is nothing new for the club. LA went through a number of players last season in search of the right mix to play alongside James and Anthony Davis. They may have gotten it right during the short offseason adding reigning Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell along with Dennis Schroeder.
It likely wouldn’t matter who the Lakers plug in since it’s all about LeBron and AD. The two combined to average over 51 points per game to account for nearly 45 percent of the team’s offense. James also led the league in assists with 10.2 and Davis was among the league leaders in blocks with 2.3 per game.
One thing the Lakers did well as a team which often went overlooked was how they played defense. With AD clogging up the middle LA boasted one of the best units in the NBA allowing an average 107.6 points to rank fourth. Their defensive rating of 106.3 placed them third in the league. There could be some bumps out of the gate following the shortest offseason in league history, but don’t expect the Lakers to have a championship hangover. They are the favorites to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy for a reason.
Mavericks at Lakers Prediction
Best Bet: Lakers
The Lakers did a good job shutting down Doncic last season winning three of the four meetings. Luka will get his numbers, but without his sidekick Porzingis to start the year, LA can focus on shutting Doncic down. And that should be enough for a cover victory.