The Mavericks host the Lakers Saturday night in the third and final meeting between these teams this season. The Lakers won the first matchup 138-115 on December 25th, but that was a different Lakers team than Saturday’s squad as LeBron James and Anthony Davis were both at full strength.
These teams will play each other in a second consecutive game after the Mavericks won 115-110 on Thursday in Dallas as Luka Doncic scored at least 30 points for the third consecutive game. Another Mavericks win Saturday would bring them within 1.5 games of the Lakers for the fifth seed in the Western Conference and also give the Mavericks the tiebreaker with the season series win.
Lakers Need Shooters to Step UpIf the Lakers pull the upset, they will need to get healthy and step up defensively. The Lakers have a long injury report as Markieff Morris (ankle), Dennis Schroder (foot), Andre Drummond (toe), and Anthony Davis (calf) are all probable to play Saturday. Marc Gasol (finger) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (ankle) are questionable while LeBron James (ankle) remains out.
The Lakers will need as many of these key players healthy as possible with James’s playmaking absent. The Lakers are scoring 8.1 fewer points per 100 possessions on offense without James on the court, and they have fallen to 20th in offensive rating as they have dealt with injuries for the last few months. The Mavericks are a significantly better offensive team than the Lakers in the halfcourt with James out, and the Lakers will need their defense to lead to transition opportunities in order to remain competitive.
Davis made his return to the court Thursday after missing two months with a right calf and right Achilles injuries. His defense made an impact for the Lakers, but he was rusty on offense while playing on a strict 15-minute restriction. If Davis can find more of his form offensively, it will be a huge boost for the Lakers.
After missing more than two months, the rust was evident in Anthony Davis' return. Had 4 points on 2-10 FG in 17 minutes and is expected to be done for the night.— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) April 23, 2021
The good news: AD moved well, such as when he blocked a Porzingis jumper and moved feet to force Luka airball.
Among guards and wings who have a chance to play Saturday for the Lakers, only Caldwell-Pope is scoring at an efficient rate this season as his 118.1 points per 100 shots rank in the 69th percentile among wings. KCP has been on fire in April as he is averaging 15.3 points per game while he hadn’t averaged more than 9.8 points in any other month this season. His three-point shooting has lifted his scoring as he is making 49.3% from beyond the arc on 6.8 threes per game this month.
KCP is coming off of a season-high 29 points in Thursday’s loss to the Mavericks, and the value on the Lakers will be affected if he is out. KCP made six of 12 threes on Thursday while the rest of the Lakers made just four of 18 threes. Players like Kyle Kuzma, Markieff Morris, Alex Caruso, and Talen Horton-Tucker will need to step up alongside Schroder and Davis for the Lakers to win if KCP is out.
Can Doncic and Brunson Carry the Mavericks?If the Mavericks win and cover, they will need Doncic to continue playing great basketball while secondary scorers like Jalen Brunson and Tim Hardaway Jr. step up. Kristaps Porzingis (ankle) and Maxi Kleber (back) are questionable to play on Saturday while Tyrell Terry (personal) remains out.
Yesterday was Luka Dončić's 33rd 30-8-8 game, already the 11th most in our database pic.twitter.com/PUGZkus6jg— Basketball Reference (@bball_ref) April 23, 2021
The Mavericks have gotten elite play from Luka Doncic, and he will need to carry them if Porzingis can’t play. Doncic’s 119.4 points per 100 shots rank in the 72nd percentile among wings while his 42.6% assist rate ranks in the 100th percentile. Doncic will need to make smart decisions against an elite Lakers defense that leads the NBA with a 107.4 defensive rating. The Lakers’ defense ranks third in the NBA in turnover rate (15.3%), and Doncic will need to make smart decisions with the basketball to prevent transition opportunities for the Lakers.
Porzingis has started to heat up lately with at least 19 points in seven of the last eight games, including Thursday’s win when he was injured early in the fourth quarter. Since the Mavericks shifted how they rest Porzingis and Doncic on February first, Porzingis has been better able to find his rhythm as he plays longer at the beginning of games. Before the shift, the Mavericks offense was averaging 110.9 points per 100 possessions, but since then, the Mavericks are scoring 117.4 points per 100 possessions.
While Doncic and Porzingis (if healthy) will be key against the Lakers, players like Jalen Brunson and Tim Hardaway Jr. will also need to make shots and step up as creators when Doncic is off the court. Brunson, a frontrunner for the Sixth Man of the Year Award, has been incredibly efficient this season as his 126.1 points per 100 shots rank in the 99th percentile among combo guards (per Cleaning The Glass). Hardaway Jr. has been inconsistent, but he will play a significantly larger role on offense if Porzingis is out, and he will need to improve on Thursday’s performance where he made just two of 10 shots. Mavericks bigs like Dwight Powell and Willie Cauley-Stein will also need to step up inside on the boards against the imposing Lakers frontcourt.
- Lakers are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games vs. a team with a winning straight-up record.
- Lakers are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games as an underdog.
- Mavericks are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 home games vs. a team with a road winning % of greater than .600.
- Mavericks are 26-12-2 ATS in their last 40 Saturday games.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Take the Mavericks to win and cover as slight home favorites as the Lakers have struggled against winning teams lately while the Mavericks have thrived against better opponents. With Davis still likely on a minutes restriction and out of rhythm offensively, this is a game the Mavericks should and need to win to try and avoid the dreaded play-in tournament. Doncic will be the best player on the floor Saturday while Brunson gives the Mavericks an efficient secondary scorer that the Lakers don’t have coming off of the bench. Expect the Mavericks to win and cover, especially if Caldwell-Pope can’t play.
Full-Game Total Pick
With so many key players’ statuses uncertain due to injury, there is value on the under. The key player to watch is Caldwell-Pope as the Lakers don’t have the shooters to make up for his absence. Both teams play at a relatively slower pace than average in the NBA, and with these teams playing each other for the second consecutive game, the defenses (especially the Lakers’ elite defense) should have an edge.