Mavericks-Lakers Preview

The Dallas Mavericks have the best road record in the NBA, so

the prospect of not having home-court advantage past the first

round of the playoffs shouldn’t seem all that daunting.

The Los Angeles Lakers, however, have spent the last few months

showing they’re not particularly accommodating hosts.

The red-hot Lakers have won nine straight at Staples Center

since the All-Star break, and they can make it eight consecutive

wins overall Thursday night in a showdown with Dallas and potential

second-round playoff clash.

Road success is nothing new for the Mavericks (53-21), who are

27-10 away from home after finishing an NBA-best 27-14 in

2009-10.

But that dominance didn’t carry over into the playoffs, when

second-seeded Dallas lost all three road games while being upset in

the first round by San Antonio.

If it can survive the first round this spring, Los Angeles

(53-20) would likely be up next. The Lakers currently have a

half-game lead over the Mavericks for the Western Conference’s No.

2 seed, meaning Thursday’s game could go a long way in deciding

which team would host a potential second-round Game 7 between two

teams that haven’t met in the postseason since 1988.

“It’s as important as the last game we played against Dallas,”

Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Wednesday, referring to a 96-91 road

win March 12. “It was a game we keyed on our schedule and have guys

thinking about it.

“It creates an opportunity to get some space between us and

Dallas but it’s still not the end, obviously.”

The Mavericks won their first game against the Lakers 109-100 at

home Jan. 19, though, leaving the season series even heading into

the only regular-season meeting at Staples Center.

Dallas is 2-0 in Los Angeles this season, however. The Mavericks

held on to beat the Clippers 106-100 on Wednesday, their fifth

straight win while improving to 3-0 on their six-game road

trip.

Talk then quickly shifted to the battle for the No. 2 seed.

“It’s not the end of the world to be (No.) 3, but we’re going

for it,” Dirk Nowitzki said.

Facing the Lakers, though, presents a far different challenge.

Jackson’s team is 15-1 since the All-Star break, has won nine in a

row at home and is well-rested after Sunday’s 102-84 rout of New

Orleans.

“It’s good, but don’t make a big deal out of this,” said Pau

Gasol, who had 23 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks. “It’s not a

big deal if we end up 24-1. What matters is we get to the playoffs

healthy and with the best record possible.”

The Lakers could use another big game from Gasol, particularly

considering Kobe Bryant’s recent struggles against the Mavericks.

The 13-time All-Star has been held to 17.0 points per game while

shooting 40.8 percent versus Dallas since the start of last season

– his worst average against any opponent.

The teams have split six meetings in that span, and the key to

the Lakers’ victories has been Andrew Bynum. They’re 3-0 against

the Mavericks when their 23-year-old center scores at least 19

points and 0-3 when he’s held under that mark.

Dallas, meanwhile, has plenty more than Nowitzki to count on

versus Los Angeles. Jason Terry has averaged 21.7 points in his

last three games in the series, while Shawn Marion has averaged

23.5 – nearly twice his season average – in the past two

meetings.

Los Angeles has won 20 consecutive home games when it’s scored

at least 97 points.