The Lakers are 0-4 on the road this season, and the Mavericks are 5-2 at home. Even with the Lakers motivated by revenge for the opening day embarrassment, the short-handed Mavericks are not an easy win. More, the Mavericks have not played a game since Wednesday, when Dallas beat a New York Knicks team that boasted an 8-2 record entering American Airlines Center.
Dirk Nowitzki remains unavailable for Saturday’s game, but Chris Kaman is back for Dallas. With an older Lakers team set to play its fourth game in five days, Mike D’Antoni’s guys are on the verge of dropping three straight. If the Lakers don’t pull out a win in Dallas, they will have their second three-game losing streak of the season and be 0-5 on the road.
Needless to say, D’Antoni has a mess on his hands.
The Lakers, however, have shown improvement in a couple of key areas that should have the coach optimistic entering Saturday’s ball game.
First, the bench has started to contribute valuable minutes and points with some consistency. Jodie Meeks has finally earned some regular minutes, and he’s backing up his reputation of being a sharp shooter. Meeks was on fire against the Kings during a key run at the start of the fourth quarter. He ended that night with 15 points in 16 minutes. Over the last two games, Meeks is shooting 50 percent from the field.
Also, Antawn Jamison had far and away his best performance of the season in Friday’s loss to the Grizzlies. Jamison scored 16 points and was so impressive that D’Antoni decided to keep him on the floor in lieu of Pau Gasol at the end of the game.
The other key improvement has been in Dwight Howard’s movement in his return from injury. Howard has been jumping higher than he ever has as a Laker, but his return to health has not exactly filled up the box score.
After a string of five straight double doubles, Howard has failed to break double digits in points or rebounds the last two games. Howard had his worst game of the season on Friday night with 7 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 turnovers in 39 minutes.
However, his 4 block shots and an acrobatic turnaround dunk proved that Howard’s physical health is not entirely the reason the Lakers big man is in a slump. Howard has only recorded 11 field goal attempts over the last two games compared to 42 field goal attempts by Kobe Bryant over that same stretch.
On Saturday night, the Lakers will look for a bit more balance in their bid to finally break their duck on the road.