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.