On Sunday morning, the Los Angeles Lakers are in Dallas to take on the Mavericks.
Both Dallas and Los Angeles are on the fringes of the Western Conference playoffs picture, but both teams are finding a good run of form at the right moment. The Mavericks have won three in a row and six of their last eight games, and the Lakers have won two in a row and 10 of their last 14 games.
Ahead of Sunday’s game, the Lakers are three games behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth and seed, and the Mavs are one game behind the Lakers in the standings. Either fringe team could make it to the post-season, but just as likely, neither team could qualify for the NBA’s marathon second season.
Dallas’s recent improved play has a great deal to do with 14-year veteran Vince Carter. The 36-year-old shooting guard has been averaging 16.6 points on 48.1 percent from the field over the past eight games. During the month of February, he is shooting an especially proficient 58.1 percent from behind the arc on slightly over six three-point attempts per game.
“Vince Carter is really playing well,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said after Saturday’s practice. “He’s probably the key.”
Along with Carter, the Mavericks have Dirk Nowitzki back in the lineup after the German forward missed nearly two months of the season due to knee surgery. On Friday against the Hornets, Nowitzki had his best outing of the season with 26 points, seven rebounds, and four assists in Dallas’s first road win in a month.
The Lakers have overcome their own road woes after losing eight of their first 10 road games this season. Kobe Bryant and company have since gone 7-10, improving to a less-than-impressive mark of 9-18 when wearing purple instead of gold.
However, the Lakers have won four of their last seven road games to build some momentum entering a daunting final stretch of the season. The Lakers play 12 of the next 18 games on the road, and the playoffs race may well be decided during this stretch.
The path to the playoffs requires wins on the road, and Dallas is the next challenge on the Lakers’ 2012-13 odyssey.