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Preview: Lakers vs. Dallas Mavericks

April 02, 2013|By Eric Pincus
  • Lakers center Dwight Howard loses control of the ball as he attempts a shot between Mavericks big men Dirk Nowitzki and Bernard James (5).
Lakers center Dwight Howard loses control of the ball as he attempts a shot… (Tony Gutierrez / Associated…)

The Lakers (38-36) will host the Dallas Mavericks (36-37) on Tuesday night, in a game that may have serious playoff implications.

The Mavericks are 1 1/2 games behind the Lakers in the Western Conference. A Dallas win would make conference record the tiebreaker, which is currently too close to call.

A Lakers' victory would put the Lakers up by 2 1/2 in the head-to-head tiebreaker (3-1).  It would also keep the Lakers tied in the standings with the Utah Jazz.

The Jazz won the season series over the Lakers. A win will only help the Lakers keep pace, dependent on Utah losing at least one over its final seven games.

Losing to Dallas could sentence the Lakers to a spot as low as 10th place, with no playoff run.

Putting the playoff chase aside for a moment, former Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal's jersey number will be retired during halftime of Tuesday's contest.

Key matchup

The Mavericks took out the Lakers on opening night, 99-91. The Lakers got revenge in November (115-89) and February (103-99), winning both games in Dallas. The Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki only played in the third game, scoring 30 points on 11-19 shooting.

The Lakers won the battle without Pau Gasol, with Metta World Peace and Earl Clark getting the bulk of the defensive assignment on Nowitzki.

Dallas is a threat to even the series if Nowitzki is hot. Gasol will draw the primary assignment, followed by Clark -- and possibly Antawn Jamison. World Peace is out with a knee injury.

Gasol is still trying to get back into shape after sitting out for six weeks with a foot injury. He's still feeling pain after tearing his plantar fascia but is learning to play through it.

Gasol versus Nowitzki on Tuesday could ultimately decide the Lakers' fate.

X-factor

The status of Steve Nash is up in the air. The veteran point guard is hobbled with a hamstring strain and may not play.

Steve Blake will need to take on a major role in his absence.  Blake has shot well this season, but his percentages dip as a starter.

Matching up against Mike James may not be a problem, but Darren Collison has been a difficult cover for the Lakers.

On Monday after practice, Dwight Howard called Brandan Wright the Mavericks' X-factor. Wright has started recently at center, giving Dallas effort, energy and 61.3% shooting from the field.  The 6-foot-10 Wright will draw Howard defensively.

Outlook

The Lakers will be tested Tuesday in what may the key game of the season. Of course, they are in a position in which every remaining game is a must-win.

Dallas can be beaten, but if the game is on the line in the closing seconds, Nowitzki is still one of the best closers in the NBA.

ALSO:

Lakers: Week 23 predictions

Lakers still struggling with free throws, turnovers and defense

Mike D'Antoni calls Steve Nash 'doubtful' for Mavericks on Tuesday

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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