The Dallas Mavericks earned the seventh seed in the Western Conference playoffs. What's the best bet for Sunday night’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers, who just want to get their season over with?
The Dallas Mavericks Can Win Because…
They are a lot better, as exemplified by their status in NBA odds today. Let’s not complicate the matter: Dallas has far better players. The Lakers have trotted out a bunch of no-name players all season long. That won’t change Sunday. Ryan Kelly, Tarik Black, Wesley Johnson, Jordan Clarkson, and Jabari Brown represent this team’s starting five. Better-known veterans such as Nick Young and Jeremy Lin are out with injuries. Other veterans such as Carlos Boozer and Jordan Hill have been accumulating some “DNPs” (did not play designations in the box score) due to the decisions made by coach Byron Scott. This is not a deep team, and it’s not a talented team. The Lakers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves because… well… the Timberwolves are worse, especially without Kevin Garnett, Gorgui Dieng, and Ricky Rubio. None of them played on Friday night in Los Angeles, and the Timberwolves are one of the three teams in the NBA that will finish with a worse record than the Lakers this season.
Here’s the other thing to appreciate about Dallas’ situation right now. The Mavericks did play a very long game on Friday against Denver, a double-overtime thriller that ended late. However, the Mavericks and coach Rick Carlisle really balanced their minute distribution in that game. No player played more than 38 of the 58 minutes. With the exception of only one reserve (Bernard James), every Maverick who played gained at least 18 minutes of court time. This means that the Mavericks’ bench has been able to play itself into a rhythm. It scored a total of 57 points against Denver, 21 by Devin Harris.
The starters can get a rest in this game and the team can still function with players that are better than what the Lakers can offer. J.J. Barea, Charlie Villanueva, Amar’e Stoudemire, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Harris (all Dallas reserves) can beat the Laker starters.
The Los Angeles Lakers Can Win Because…
They are facing a Dallas team whose starters are going to get reduced minutes. Dallas, precisely because it is the number seven seed in the playoffs, has no reason to overplay its starters right now. Tyson Chandler in particular is someone who, after playing 31 minutes on Friday against Denver in double overtime, needs to rest his back. Dirk Nowitzki, after playing 38 minutes, should see something a lot closer to 20 or 25 minutes in this game against the Lakers. That should help Los Angeles be more competitive, especially since the Lakers are in the middle of a homestand, and also since Dallas’ double-overtime marathon on Friday occurred at altitude in Denver. The fact that Dallas had to play in altitude could take away something extra from the Mavericks.
One other point to make is this: The Lakers have been the center of a discussion about tanking this season. Right now, though, they are assured of being the fourth-worst team in the NBA. They cannot fall to third or rise to fifth. They’re locked in. Therefore, tanking is not an issue in this game. That’s very important to know.
The Lakers won’t tank, but Dallas’ bench remains good enough to beat the Lakers’ starters. And we don’t even know if the Mavericks will be resting anyone as head coach Rick Carlisle has been so coy about it. Take Dallas with your NBA picks here.
NBA Pick: Dallas -7 at BetOnline