Lakers-Mavericks Preview

The Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers are playing their worst basketball of the season. Finding a quick answer to their woes could prove difficult with a road-heavy schedule ahead.

Los Angeles will begin a stretch in which it plays 10 of 11 games on the road Tuesday night against the Dallas Mavericks.

The Lakers (14-20) have dropped seven of eight overall as they come off a 137-115 home loss to Denver on Sunday. It marked the club's most points allowed in regulation since a 141-124 loss at Charlotte on Nov. 24, 1993. Opponents are averaging 108.3 points over the last eight games.

Rebounding also continues to be a major issue with Los Angeles surrendering a 58-38 edge on the boards against the Nuggets. Coach Mike D'Antoni's team averages a minus-5.1 margin per game, worst in the NBA.

With a return date for Kobe Bryant still unknown and Steve Nash not likely to come back until next month, the Lakers will remain short-handed as they try to turn things around. Los Angeles has lost its last three road games by double digits, and its next four come against the teams comprising the bottom half of the Western Conference playoff picture - Dallas, Houston, the Clippers and Phoenix.

"It's tough. There's no sugarcoating it," D'Antoni said. "We're in a hole, and we put ourselves in this hole. We'll get guys coming back (from injury). We just have to keep playing hard, keep your head down, go through it."

Pau Gasol remains one of the team's few bright spots as he plays well despite being linked to trade rumors. He's averaging 24.3 points and 11.0 rebounds over his last three contests.

"I wanted to play my best and give it everything I have," Gasol said after finishing with 25 points and 10 rebounds against Denver.

Gasol is averaging only 12.3 points in his last three versus the Mavericks and was 4 of 9 with 10 points in 31 minutes of the Lakers' 123-104 loss in Dallas on Nov. 5.

The Mavericks (19-15) shot 52.1 percent from the field in that contest and matched a season high with 13 3-pointers on 27 attempts, but they're coming off a season-low scoring total in Sunday's 92-80 home defeat to the New York Knicks.

Dallas has dropped four in a row at home after starting 11-2 there and will be looking to avoid its first three-game skid of the season overall.

"For some reason we're more focused on the road and play better," forward Dirk Nowitzki told the team's official website. "Maybe the mindset is not right at home. Maybe we think it's going to be better at home but it's not. We've got to still compete, we've got to play hard, and we'd love to stop the bleeding (Tuesday)."

Nowitzki scored 18 points Sunday and missed a season-worst four free throws on nine attempts. He has only 22 points over his last two games versus Los Angeles while going 8 of 22 from the field. He had averaged 25.3 points in his previous 10 matchups.

The Lakers had won nine of 10 meetings and five straight in Dallas prior to their Nov. 5 loss.

Mavericks forward Shawn Marion's status is uncertain after injuring his ankle Sunday.

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