After their recent surge was derailed by the Western Conference’s top team, the Los Angeles Lakers will look to regroup Thursday against another conference power in the Dallas Mavericks.
The Lakers saw their season-best five-game winning streak toppled Monday during a 122-109 defeat to the Denver Nuggets in a game where LeBron James was a mere observer with left ankle soreness.
As if that wasn’t enough, Los Angeles also was without Lonnie Walker IV (knee), Austin Reaves (hamstring) and Troy Brown Jr. (quad), while Patrick Beverley (hip) departed at halftime. Anthony Davis has been out since Dec. 18 with a stress injury to his right foot.
A brutally slow start and a myriad of injuries have come to define Darvin Ham’s first season as Lakers head coach, although a sense of resiliency has emerged.
After Davis went down in mid-December, with his absence initially ruled indefinite, the losses continued to mount. Then James delivered his post-Christmas challenge, saying that he is still capable of winning, while coaxing his teammates to follow his lead.
The Lakers’ five-game run of victories started there, with one of them even coming with James sitting out. They could not repeat the feat Monday and now wait to see if James and select others will be fit enough to face the Mavericks.
“(James) listens to his body, very responsible in that regard,” Ham said. “At the end of the day, we’ve been playing well, obviously. Again, we don’t want to subject our guys to something that a little rest can help in the short term or force the issue where it turns into a long-term issue. So him sitting out (was) totally fine.”
Mavs superstar Luka Doncic followed that same credo this week, when he sat out Sunday’s eventual 120-109 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder with left ankle soreness. He returned Tuesday to score 43 points with 11 rebounds, but Dallas fell 113-101 to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Mavs have now lost three of their past four games following a seven-game winning streak, and have fallen to 0-2 to open a five-game road swing that will conclude with two games at Portland over the weekend.
Doncic made just three field goals in the first half against the Clippers before asserting himself after halftime with 31 points and nine rebounds. He made consecutive 3-pointers with just under three minutes remaining to keep the Mavs in the game before the Clippers pulled away.
“Our energy and effort (weren’t) there in that first half,” Dallas head coach Jason Kidd said. “I thought in the second half we were better at being able to execute, understanding we’ve seen this the majority of the season when teams are going to double and take the ball out of Luka’s hands.”
The Mavs are still dealing with a rash of injuries, just like the Lakers. Dallas big man Dwight Powell (hip) left Tuesday’s game in the first half and did not return. Already out were Maxi Kleber (hamstring), Dorian Finney-Smith (adductor) and Josh Green (elbow).
“We’re just running out of bodies,” Kidd said.
–Field Level Media