In what could possibly be a playoff rematch between Western Conference powers, the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks will get together this afternoon at Staples Center.
The Lakers were swept out of last year's postseason by the Mavericks, and the two clubs are currently lined up to square off when the playoffs commence later this month. Right now, however, there is still plenty of games left to alter the standings and the Lakers are holding tight to the third seed -- one game ahead of the rival Clippers in both the conference and Pacific Division.
Los Angeles will resume a three-game homestand that started with a 103-97 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Friday, as Matt Barnes came off the bench to post 24 points and 10 rebounds. Barnes stepped up for injured All-Star Kobe Bryant, who is out indefinitely with an inflamed tendon in his left shin. Bryant has missed four straight games and is averaging 28.1 ppg.
"With Kobe out, we all have to step up," Barnes said. "They left us open and we hit shots. My job is to come out with energy and play hard. When we play hard, we're a hard team to beat."
Andrew Bynum netted a game-high 30 points and Pau Gasol contributed 14 points and 10 rebounds for the playoff-bound Lakers, who have won three straight and seven of their last nine games. Los Angeles is 24-6 at home and will close out the residency Tuesday versus Southwest Division-champion San Antonio.
Lakers head coach Mike Brown left Staples Center prior to tipoff for undisclosed personal reasons, and should be back on the sidelines Sunday.
Dallas will resume a four-game road trip this afternoon and is unbeaten so far on the trek following back-to-back wins over Golden State and Portland.
The defending champion Mavericks recorded their third straight win and 11th in 17 tries with Friday's 97-94 victory against the Blazers. Dirk Nowitzki scored 24 points and Delonte West tallied 21 for Dallas, which sits sixth in the West, 1 1/2 games behind Memphis and 1 1/2 games ahead of both Houston and Denver. Shawn Marion had 17 points and 14 boards in the win, helping the Mavericks improve to 13-16 away from Big D.
"I liked a lot of the things we did," Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said. "I liked our intensity and our effort the majority of the night, but we made so many judgement errors that we can't make going forward."
Dallas was in the Pacific Northwest for the first time since Game 6 of last season's Western Conference quarterfinals when Nowitzki had 33 points to help the Mavs eliminate the Trail Blazers with a 103-96 win.
The Mavericks will also visit Utah on the trek and may not have guard Rodrigue Beaubois Sunday due to a strained right calf. Beaubois is questionable for Dallas, which has dropped the first three meetings of the season to the Lakers. The Mavs have lost 36 of 40 games as the guest in this series during the regular season.