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Lakers-Mavericks Preview

AP - Sports

For a team that's sitting just outside the top four in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Lakers certainly seem to have a lot of issues.

Their lackluster play on the road is perhaps the biggest.

Beating anyone - particularly quality opponents - away from Staples Center has been a challenge for the Lakers, who will have two prime chances to rectify that with a difficult back-to-back that begins Wednesday night against the surging Dallas Mavericks.

Los Angeles beat Dallas 73-70 at Staples last month, hardly revenge for the Mavs sweeping them out of the West semifinals but a win that seemed to have the Lakers moving in the right direction.

That was their 10th victory in 13 games, but a month later, it's unclear exactly how together the Lakers are. An unhappy Lamar Odom was shipped to Dallas before the season after a proposed three-way trade to land Chris Paul fell through, and now it appears Los Angeles (19-13) may have to do the same with the other key component of that deal.

Kobe Bryant ripped Lakers management after a 102-90 loss at Phoenix on Sunday for allowing Pau Gasol to dangle as additional trade rumors have surfaced. The team seemed to respond a night later against Portland, opening on a 37-7 run en route to a 103-92 victory.

That was followed by a brief players-only meeting to clear the air ahead of the back-to-back in Dallas (21-12) and Oklahoma City.

"I can tell when (Gasol) is down, and when enough is enough,'' Bryant said Monday. "He went through the first phase and kind of played through that and came out of that, and then he gets hit with another one. You can tell he's down, and it's a little hard to overcome. We've got two big games coming up ... and I don't want him thinking about it.''

The win over the Trail Blazers was the Lakers' 14th in 16 games at home, but they've done little to sustain that momentum on the road. After going a conference-best 27-14 away from home last season, they're 5-11.

That includes 1-6 against teams at or above .500 - bad news considering the Mavs and Thunder are a combined 46-19.

"I think we just have to go (on the road) and play with confidence and get rest," center Andrew Bynum said. "We get rest, we're good."

The Lakers could use a big effort from Bynum, who had 17 points and 15 boards to lead Los Angeles past Dallas last month. That performance could be tougher to repeat at the American Airlines Center, where Bynum will certainly get a rough reception after being ejected from the Game 4 loss last season for clotheslining J.J. Barea.

This is the Mavericks' final game before the All-Star break, and they're heading in with momentum. Dallas has won seven of eight after beating Boston 89-73 on Monday, as Dirk Nowitzki moved into the top 20 on the all-time scoring list with a game-high 26.

The Mavs have held opponents to 85.8 points per game and 38.9 percent shooting while winning four in a row at home.

"Our identity this year is that we're a defensive team," coach Rick Carlisle told Dallas' official website. "You look at our stats and you look at our record, you look at when we've struggled and when we play well. Our defense and rebounding is defining who we are."

The loss to the Lakers is Dallas' only one in the 14 games in which it's held opponents to 90 or fewer points.

Jason Terry has averaged 24.0 points - hitting 20 of 33 3-pointers - in the Mavs' last five home games against Los Angeles. Bryant has averaged 18.2 points in that stretch, missing all 16 attempts from beyond the arc.

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