The Mavericks can build a bigger lead over the Lakers in the race for the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed and clinch the tiebreaker between the teams.
Dallas (47-18) is 1 1/2 games ahead of Los Angeles (46-20) for the second-best record in the West behind San Antonio. The Mavericks won 109-100 in the first meeting at home Jan. 19, and the teams’ final matchup after Saturday is at Staples Center on March 31.
“It’s the defending champs coming in your building, so it’s a big deal,” coach Rick Carlisle told the Mavericks’ official website. “To try and downplay it wouldn’t be being honest. It’s an important game.”
The Lakers are finishing a difficult four-game trip after their eight-game win streak since the All-Star break ended with Thursday’s 94-88 loss at Miami. Los Angeles had beaten the Spurs and Atlanta in the first two games before getting outrebounded 46-37 by the Heat.
“They had 12 offensive rebounds in the first half; we don’t do that,” guard Kobe Bryant(notes) said. “That is uncharacteristic of us. I turned the ball over late in the game when it was tied; just stupid stuff like that. Those are easily correctable.”
The Mavericks are expecting the Lakers to be angry after their win streak was snapped.
“This week has been full of tough challenges, and it doesn’t get any easier now,” forward Dirk Nowitzki(notes) said. “The Lakers just came off a loss in Miami, so you know they’re gonna be ready to play. Yeah, it should be another fun test.”
Carlisle challenged his team by calling the Mavs “soft” after recent one-point losses to Memphis and New Orleans. Dallas responded with a dominant effort Thursday with a 47-37 edge on the glass in a 127-109 win over New York.
“A win is a great response, to anything,” forward Shawn Marion(notes) said. “What more can you ask? No reason to dwell on it. … We all get caught up in the heat of the moment at times. That’s what he felt at the time. You’ve just got to learn from it and do it.”
“We had some tough losses here in the last week,” Nowitzki said. “You can’t win them all so you have to come back the next day and compete and that’s what we did today.”
The Lakers have struggled to shoot 42.4 percent in five games this month. They shot 40.0 percent Thursday, and 29 percent in the second half
Dallas has won two straight over Los Angeles after losing eight of the previous nine meetings. The Mavs made 12 of 26 3-pointers and had three players score at least 21 points in the first meeting on a night when Nowitzki was limited to 14.