Lakers-Mavericks Preview

The Los Angeles Lakers’ early struggles have been
well-documented, and now they’re on the verge of reaching another
dubious mark.

They’ll hope to avoid their worst road start in 19 years
Saturday night against the Dallas Mavericks, who are looking to
build off one of their more notable victories of the season.

The offseason acquisitions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash
couldn’t help avoid Los Angeles’ 1-4 start, especially with Nash
missing the last 11 games with a bruised left shin.

That rough stretch cost former coach Mike Brown his job, but it
appeared the Lakers had rebounded in winning five of their next six
games, including a victory over Brooklyn on Tuesday in Mike
D’Antoni’s debut.

As it continues to adjust to D’Antoni’s run-and-gun offense,
though, Los Angeles fell 113-97 at woeful Sacramento the following
night before a 106-98 defeat at Memphis on Friday.

Kobe Bryant shot only 7 of 23 but scored a game-high 30 points
for the Lakers (6-7), who are trying to avoid their first 0-5 road
start on the road since dropping their first six away from home in
1993.

”Offense is all about rhythm,” D’Antoni said. ”We had some
sometimes, but we have got to maintain the rhythm of the game and
we are not there yet.”

Pau Gasol finished with six points and Howard attempted just
seven shots and had seven points for the second straight game,
hitting two field goals in each.

The Lakers are 0-5 when Gasol scores 10 or fewer points. He
didn’t play in the fourth quarter with D’Antoni looking to play
with a quicker lineup.

”That’s not my decision, my call. I’m a professional. When my
number is called, I’m out there,” Gasol said. ”That is something
that I don’t think has happened to me.”

The Mavericks figured they’d struggle without Dirk Nowitzki for
the first part of the season, but offseason additions O.J. Mayo and
Darren Collison have helped make up for his lost production.

Since getting off to a 4-1 start, Dallas (7-6) hasn’t played its
best ball with Nowitzki recovering from knee surgery. It knocked
off New York 114-111 on Wednesday, though, behind 27 points from
Mayo.

”Big confidence boost,” Mayo said.

The Mavericks had lost two of three at home before Wednesday’s
win.

“It gives us confidence,” reserve Dahntay Jones said. “We needed
to get a good win at home to get our team at a high, so I think
we’re in a good spot to get a win on Saturday.”

Vince Carter added 25 points off the bench and Collison finished
with 19 and seven assists.

Mayo is averaging a team-best 22.2 points while Collison has
been solid running the point, contributing 13.8 points and 6.5
assists per game.

”First and foremost, it was a collective effort,” Carter said.
”This was one of (Collison’s) best games since the very beginning
of the season. He’s very hard on himself. He wants to win, and
that’s what I like about him.”

Collison hit 8 of 12 shots and scored 17 points to lead six
players in double figures in Dallas’ 99-91 road victory over Los
Angeles in both teams’ season opener Oct. 30.

Gasol scored a game-high 23 points, Bryant had 22 and Howard
finished with 19 in that contest, but Dallas ended a four-game skid
in the series.