The Los Angeles Lakers are the Pacific Division champions. That’s clearly not the title they’ve had their eye on.
Two days after clinching a playoff spot, the Lakers continue their quest for the NBA’s best record Sunday afternoon as they face a potential first-round opponent when the Dallas Mavericks visit Staples Center.
While Los Angeles (52-13) has a big lead atop the Western Conference, Dallas (40-26) is in eighth place but is closer to the second spot than ninth.
The Mavericks have only won three road games against the Lakers in the past 18 seasons and are facing a Los Angeles team which is a conference-best 29-4 at home, including six straight wins.
The Lakers are coming off a road win over the second-best team in the West, closing a a three-game road trip with a 102-95 victory in San Antonio on Tuesday. The victory clinched a playoff berth and the division title, but the Lakers have more lofty goals.
“Oh yeah,” Kobe Bryant joked, “we’re really big on Pacific Division titles.”
Bryant, a three-time NBA champion, and the Lakers are tied with Cleveland for the best record in the league entering a game against a Dallas team it has dominated. The Lakers have won five straight in the series, including two this season, and 32 of the past 35 matchups in Los Angeles.
In the teams’ last meeting, Bryant scored 35 points in a 114-107 home win on Nov. 28. He’s averaged 34.7 points in his last six games versus the Mavericks.
Pau Gasol will try for back-to-back double-doubles Sunday after scoring 23 points and grabbing 11 rebounds against the Spurs. Gasol had 22 points and a team-high 11 boards in the teams’ first matchup this season - a 106-99 win in Dallas on Nov. 11.
Against San Antonio, Lamar Odom had his best performance of the Lakers’ 2-1 trip with 12 points and 10 boards, his ninth double-double of the season. The veteran forward was suspended for Wednesday’s 102-96 win at Houston after leaving the bench during an on-court altercation in Monday’s 111-94 loss to Portland.
“(Thursday’s win) salvaged a road trip,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
Dallas, meanwhile, looks to close its four-game road trip by bouncing back from a disappointing loss.
The Mavericks had their three-game winning streak snapped Friday, falling 119-110 to a Golden State team which entered the matchup 20 games under .500. Dallas could have pulled even with Denver for seventh place in the West but allowed a season-high 59 rebounds and 28 second-chance points.
“The Warriors outworked us, they outhustled us, they got all the loose balls, all the rebounds,” said Jason Terry, averaging 25.0 points against the Lakers this season. “When you are scrapping for your playoff lives, you cannot come out and put up a performance like that. We are disappointed, but we have one more game on this trip, and we need to find a way to get a win.”
Jason Kidd notched his 102nd career triple-double, and second this season, with 21 points, 11 assists and 10 boards. He has four career triple-doubles versus the Lakers, including one in the Nov. 11 loss.
Dirk Nowitzki is averaging 31.0 points in his last four games, but has been held to an average of 16.5 in two meetings with Los Angeles this season.
Including playoffs, the Lakers have a 60-10 all-time home record against Dallas.