Having already faced the new-look Dallas Mavericks with Kyrie Irving, the Los Angeles Lakers will get a second look Friday, this time at home.
Waiting to be decided is just how many of the stars for both teams take the court.
In a Feb. 26 matchup at Dallas, the Lakers pulled off a 111-108 victory over the Mavericks that was near the outset of their resurgence. It was the third game in a stretch when the Lakers have won eight of their last 12 games.
The Lakers had the services of LeBron James in that contest as the star delivered 26 points and eight rebounds. But James was injured in the third quarter, and even though he remained in the game, he hasn't played since with a tendon injury in his right foot.
In the nine games James has missed, the Lakers have gone 5-4 as they hover toward the bottom of playoff-eligible teams in the Western Conference. At the start of NBA play Thursday, the Lakers were ninth in the conference with a 34-36 record.
Los Angeles played without fellow star Anthony Davis on the second game of a back-to-back Wednesday and lost 114-110 against the last-place Houston Rockets.
"They made us feel them, in terms of them attacking the paint, them getting hits, them getting offensive rebounds, giving themselves extra possessions," Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said of the Rockets. "We should have been the ones playing with that type of edge."
Without James and Davis, the Lakers received 24 points off the bench from Austin Reaves and 18 points from D'Angelo Russell, who has returned to the team in a deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves at last month's trade deadline. Jarred Vanderbilt, another addition, had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
"We just got to play the game like it's our last," Vanderbilt said. "We're running out of time. We got what, 12 games left? We have no more freebies. We never had none to begin with. But we need all these games."
The Mavericks are in the same mode, with little to no sympathy for the Lakers' issues. Dallas was without Luka Doncic (thigh), Irving (foot) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (calf) in Wednesday's 137-128 overtime victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
Doncic and Irving participated in practice Thursday.
Christian Wood had 28 points and 13 rebounds off the bench for the Mavericks, while Jaden Hardy and Dwight Powell each had 22 points. Josh Green added 21, while Reggie Bullock had 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Dallas was one a game ahead of the Lakers in the West standings on Thursday at 35-35.
"We just have to continue to stay positive, keep coaching, keep putting guys in a position to be successful," Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said. "The game of basketball is about mistakes. You make mistakes at the wrong time, and if you can capitalize on it, then it puts you ahead."
Friday's game closes out the season series between the teams. The Mavericks won the first two meetings, 124-115 on Christmas Day at Dallas, and a 119-115 double-overtime thriller on Jan. 12 at Los Angeles. Doncic had 35 points 14 rebounds and 13 assists in the Jan. 12 game.
--Field Level Media