Lakers-Mavericks Preview

There’s plenty on the line Saturday night when the Dallas

Mavericks host the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Mavericks can build a bigger lead over the Lakers in the

race for the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed and clinch the

tiebreaker between the teams.

Dallas (47-18) is 1 1/2 games ahead of Los Angeles (46-20) for

the second-best record in the West behind San Antonio. The

Mavericks won 109-100 in the first meeting at home Jan. 19, and the

teams’ final matchup after Saturday is at Staples Center on March


“It’s the defending champs coming in your building, so it’s a

big deal,” coach Rick Carlisle told the Mavericks’ official

website. “To try and downplay it wouldn’t be being honest. It’s an

important game.”

The Lakers are finishing a difficult four-game trip after their

eight-game win streak since the All-Star break ended with

Thursday’s 94-88 loss at Miami. Los Angeles had beaten the Spurs

and Atlanta in the first two games before getting outrebounded

46-37 by the Heat.

“They had 12 offensive rebounds in the first half; we don’t do

that,” guard Kobe Bryant said. “That is uncharacteristic of us. I

turned the ball over late in the game when it was tied; just stupid

stuff like that. Those are easily correctable.”

The Mavericks are expecting the Lakers to be angry after their

win streak was snapped.

“This week has been full of tough challenges, and it doesn’t get

any easier now,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “The Lakers just came

off a loss in Miami, so you know they’re gonna be ready to play.

Yeah, it should be another fun test.”

Carlisle challenged his team by calling the Mavs “soft” after

recent one-point losses to Memphis and New Orleans. Dallas

responded with a dominant effort Thursday with a 47-37 edge on the

glass in a 127-109 win over New York.

“A win is a great response, to anything,” forward Shawn Marion

said. “What more can you ask? No reason to dwell on it. … We all

get caught up in the heat of the moment at times. That’s what he

felt at the time. You’ve just got to learn from it and do it.”

Nowitzki had 23 points, Marion 22 and Jason Terry 21 as Dallas

posted season highs for points in a game, quarter (41 in the

second) and half (72 in the first).

“We had some tough losses here in the last week,” Nowitzki said.

“You can’t win them all so you have to come back the next day and

compete and that’s what we did today.”

The Lakers have struggled to shoot 42.4 percent in five games

this month. They shot 40.0 percent Thursday, and 29 percent in the

second half

“We just didn’t capitalize on opportunities,” center Andrew

Bynum said. “We turned the ball over twice at critical times.”

Dallas has won two straight over Los Angeles after losing eight

of the previous nine meetings. The Mavs made 12 of 26 3-pointers

and had three players score at least 21 points in the first meeting

on a night when Nowitzki was limited to 14.

Bryant had 21 points and 10 assists and Lamar Odom added 20

points and 10 boards for the Lakers. The Mavs’ 55.0 percent

shooting is the second-highest allowed by Los Angeles this