NBA Odds: Freefalling Mavericks meet Lakers

By: Michael Robinson | Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The freefalling Dallas Mavericks look to end a hideous six-game slide, both straight-up and against the spread, when they host the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night.

Dallas (26-14 SU, 20-18-2 ATS) started out the year in fine fashion (24-5 SU) before being devastated by injuries. Power forward Dirk Nowitzki (knee) got hurt a couple of days after Christmas and missed nine games. Small forward Caron Butler (15 PPG) torn his ACL on New Year’s Day and is out for the season.

Nowitzki returned two games ago after watching the Mavericks go just 2-7 SU and ATS without him. They scored eight PPG less without their best player. The results haven’t been pretty since his return, losses and failures to ‘cover’ at Memphis (89-70) and Detroit (103-89).

Andrew BynumCoach Rick Carlisle hopes his team has hit bottom and there was a good sign Monday against Detroit with Nowitzki scoring 32 points. The NBA’s ninth-leading scorer (23.8 PPG) was very rusty against Memphis, scoring just seven points before being ejected in the third quarter.

Carlisle needs to get his rotations set again. Dallas used to have an explosive bench anchored by Shawn Marion and Jason Terry. However, Marion has been forced into the first five with Butler’s injury and Terry is starting since last game with DeShawn Stevenson struggling. That leaves very little scoring from the second unit.

Aggressive owner Mark Cuban has a decision to make as Dallas still looks for its first NBA title. If Cuban thinks his team can contend, he may be willing to absorb a long-term contract like Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala or Charlotte’s Stephen Jackson. If not, Dallas can stand pat and try to squeeze out as many wins as possible.

The Lakers (31-12 SU, 19-23-1 ATS) have rebounded nicely from a three-game losing streak in late December, going 10-2 SU (5-6-1 ATS) in their last 12 games.

L.A.’s last game was Monday at home against Oklahoma City, a 101-94 win as 4 ½-pont favorites. It was a fortunate ‘cover’ as the Thunder failed to score in the final two minutes after trailing 98-94. The Lakers were 0-3 ATS in their previous three games.

The 195 combined points scored went ‘under’ the 202 ½-point total. The ‘under’ is 11-4 in the Lakers’ last 15 games, allowing just 92.7 PPG. That’s far below the season average of 96.1 PPG allowed.

The defensive emergence is attributable to an easier schedule overall, but also the return of center Andrew Bynum. Having the seven-foot Bynum in the lineup allows Pau Gasol to shift to power forward and Lamar Odom to his sixth-man role. The Lakers have one of the tallest frontcourts in the league with all three healthy.

Odom’s versatility also allows him to guard Nowitzki, who is too fast for Gasol on the perimeter. This is the first meeting between the teams this year, but Nowitzki averaged 26 PPG in the four games last year. The teams split 2-2 SU and ATS, with each winning and ‘covering’ once on the other’s home court.

The road team is 9-2-1 ATS in the last 12 meetings overall between the teams.

Dallas starting center Tyson Chandler missed the last two games (illness), but should play Wednesday. That’s important even with Brendan Haywood a good backup. Los Angeles reserve forward Matt Barnes is out (knee) for several more weeks, which does weaken its bench some.

ESPN will have the tip-off from American Airlines Center at 6 p.m. (PT).

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