With only eight games remaining, the Lakers are officially half a game back of Utah entering Tuesday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center. Since the Lakers do not have the tie-breaker over the Jazz, they are actually a game and a half back of the Jazz, making Tuesday night even more vital.
The Lakers are also hoping to avoid losing another tiebreaker to the surging Mavericks team. Dirk Nowitzki and company went 11-5 in March and only trail the Lakers by one game in the loss column.
Coming off an injury, Nowitzki has picked up his play as the season progressed. Over the past five games, the German international is averaging 25.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. In contrast, his season average of 17.4 points is the first time he has averaged fewer than 20 points per game in a dozen years.
“Nowitzki, he’s one of the best ever,” Mike D’Antoni said at Lakers practice on Monday. “He creates a lot of problems, and [the Mavericks are] playing well. They’re playing hard. They’re playing desperate—like we are. So, it should be a dogfight.”
D’Antoni talked about using Pau Gasol, Earl Clark, and Antawn Jamison on Nowitzki and joked that he the league provided special permission to use all three at the same time.
“They’ve got a lot of veteran players,” D’Antoni said about the Mavericks. “They know how to play.”
For the Lakers, Steve Nash was ruled out due to a hamstring issue. Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant was expected to start without incident. Considering he played nearly every second of the 48 minutes against Sacramento on Saturday, not many would even question Bryant’s involvement at this point.
For those who dared to question, D’Antoni confirmed that Bryant was playing.
Officially, it may not be the playoffs, but for both the Lakers and the Mavericks, Tuesday night may well be more important than any odd playoff game