80 points in the paint, that’s what the Los Angeles Lakers should have in their mind entering Sunday night's affair with the Dallas Mavericks because that’s what they gave up against the Sacramento Kings in their last game.
The defense was atrocious, non-existent, pitiful, dreadful, ugly, and any other negative word you can think of to describe it. Playing in Sac-town, the Lakers gave up 132 points to the Kings and were dominated top to bottom, losing by 18 points.
Perhaps coming back home to play in front of their own crowd, the Lakers could find some defensive energy against Dallas. Offensively, they have been solid enough, scoring over 100 points in their first two contests, but their defense is so far giving up 122 points on average.
The Mavericks are a little banged up coming into Sunday night’s matchup. They may be without starting point guard Deron Williams, who is dealing with a knee ailment, and Wesley Matthews, who will actually play, is still being limited due to an Achilles injury. Chandler Parsons, who is recovering from knee surgery, is also questionable to play.
Surprisingly, the Lakers have a fully healthy roster but still cannot find any consistency. Last game, Jordan Clarkson led the way with 22 points on 10 of 15 shooting, while Nick Young pitched in 17 points off the pine. But guys like Julius Randle, Kobe Bryant, and Lou Williams struggled.
Ultimately, the Lakers are going to need better shooting from Bryant and stability from Randle, who is the team’s future. Of course, it all has to start on the defensive end, and it is still uncertain whether Coach Byron Scott will make any adjustments, particularly with his second unit.
In the first two games, he has used a small lineup off the bench, utilizing Brandon Bass at the center position. The small lineup didn’t prove to be costly against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but it was problematic against the bigger Sacramento Kings. But either way, the Lakers have been playing lackluster defense, and they know it.
“We’ve got to play with more fight,” Young said after Friday’s embarrassing loss.
“It’s simple, there’s no formula to getting back on defense,” Randle chimed in.
Luckily for the Lakers, the Mavericks are not a run-and-gun team; they favor playing in half-court sets more often, which should give Los Angeles the chance to set up their defense. Nonetheless, they need better defensive communication, more urgency and focus.
The Mavericks, meanwhile, were crushed by the Los Angeles Clippers in their last game, 104-88. Granted they were missing a handful of key players and could not find any offensive flow. They were led by John Jenkins’ 17 points and six rebounds, followed by Dirk Nowitzki’s 16 points and seven rebounds.
Last season, the Mavericks dominated the Lakers, sweeping the season series, 4-0, and winning by an average margin of 14.8 points. In fact, Dallas has beaten L.A. seven consecutive times, as the Lakers will look to end that streak.
Sunday night’s game will tip-off at 9:30 pm Eastern Time at the STAPLES Center.