The Lakers conclude their four-game road trip with a likely second-round playoff preview as they head to Dallas to battle the Mavericks. With apologies to Oklahoma City, who is three games behind the Lakers in the loss column, in all likelihood the Lakers and Mavericks will end up as the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in the Western Conference. Now it's just a matter of determining which team has home court advantage in that second-round matchup.
|Western Conference Playoff Seeding|
The Mavericks have two fewer losses than the Lakers, but the two team play each other twice more this season: today and on March 31 at Staples Center. The Mavericks won the first matchup this season, a 109-100 win on January 19 in Dallas, so the Lakers will have to win the final two matchups to secure the tiebreaker between the two teams. The Lakers have made three straight NBA Finals, and have been the No. 1 seed in the west all three years. The Spurs have that spot all but secured this season; it would be tough enough to make the Finals with one series without home court advantage, but two series without home court would be a tall order.
The Lakers are smarting after their loss Thursday in Miami, a game in which they played well enough to win but failed to capitalize at the end of quarters. We'll see how Kobe Bryant's much-publicized postgame shootaround helps him tonight. The Lakers are 10-9 after a loss this season, and are 24-12 on the road. Dallas is 24-9 at home.
The Lakers were red hot of course, winning eight straight games before their loss on Thursday, but the Mavericks were recently hot as well. They won 18 out of 19 games before losing two of their last four games. In their last 23 games, Dallas has 20 wins, and three one-point losses. The Lakers will have their work cutout for them tonight.
Dirk Nowitzki has scored 10 or more points in the fourth quarter in each of the last three games. Andrew Bynum has 10 or more rebounds in four straight games, averaging 15.5 boards per game during that span. Bynum has also made 17 of 21 field goal attempts over those last four games, 81.0% from the field. Phil Jackson is one win shy of 600 with the Lakers. He is trying to become the fifth coach ever with 600 wins with one franchise.
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