Even when playing against some of the league’s worst teams, five-game winning streaks are impressive in the NBA. There are just too many talented players even on bad teams to continually win on a nightly basis, meaning that both the Lakers and Dallas Mavericks have been playing pretty good basketball of late.
Let’s take a closer look at the two five-game streaks:
Opponents: Dallas has managed to beat New York, Charlotte, Houston, Memphis and Indiana after starting the season 2-7, including a home loss (106-99) to L.A. The Lakers, after starting the season 7-0 and losing to Detroit, have handled Chicago, Phoenix, Denver, Sacramento and New Jersey.
Home and Away: Three of Dallas’ wins were on the road, while four or L.A.’s were at home.
Margin: L.A. won by an average margin of 14.2 points, while Dallas emerged victorious by an average margin of 11. L.A.’s five opponents have now totaled 40 wins, and those of Dallas 31.
Injuries: Dallas has won three straight without Josh Howard (ankle sprain), while the Lakers have been fully healthy. Howard is a game time decision, but Andrew Bynum is day-to-day with a foot injury announced on Thanksgiving.
Leaders: Dirk Nowitzki has been excellent during the streak, averaging 28.8 points, 11.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists. Helping out has been Jason Kidd with 7.6 boards, 9.0 assists and 8.4 points. Meanwhile, the Lakers have received more balanced production overall, led by Kobe Bryant’s 22.0 points, 4.8 boards and 4.2 assists, with Pau Gasol contributing 18.4 points, 6.8 boards and 3.8 assists, Vladimir Radmanovic canning 12-of-19 threes (63 percent) and Andrew Bynum posting 14.2 points and 9.0 boards.
The Bench: Outstanding all season, L.A.’s bench has been terrific in the last five, led by Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza and Jordan Farmar, all of whom have contributed significantly and in varying degrees. Dallas is getting fantastic scoring production from Jason Terry (23.0 points in the last five), including games of 31 and 29 points, but no one else is contributing much off the pine.
X-Factor: For the Lakers, it has to be Andrew Bynum. If he doesn’t play, will L.A. easily return to its NBA Finals form of last season, or will the team struggle to adjust without it’s shot blocking center? Surely the impact will be felt more pointedly on defense. For Dallas, who’s used to playing without Josh Howard, will anyone other than Jason Terry step up and be productive off the bench?. Having only six guys contribute may not be enough to beat the Lakers, particularly after playing weaker teams like Memphis and Indiana that have little to no bench.
As always, we’ll be at STAPLES for full pregame coverage, including a Bynum update, and on the BasketBlog live throughout the contest with our running diary. See you soon.