No Reason to Smile

The Dallas Mavericks haven't stood out recently from a crowded Western Conference playoff field - and with good reason: They haven't beaten another West contender since January.

The Mavericks will look to end a six-game slide against teams in the West playoff picture on Tuesday when they host the Los Angeles Lakers, who've lost two straight and will likely be without injured center Pau Gasol.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Dallas -5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 205.5 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 50% of bets for this game have been placed on Los Angeles +5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

The Mavs have won five in a row to remain only 2 1/2 games behind the conference-leading Houston Rockets, but all five games have come against losing teams from the Eastern Conference. Dallas' 44-23 record isn't even good enough for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Since acquiring point guard Jason Kidd from New Jersey before the NBA's trade deadline, Dallas is 9-0 against teams with losing records, but 0-5 against playoff teams after losses to New Orleans, San Antonio, the Lakers, Utah and Houston. Four of the five losses were on the road.

The Mavs last beat one of the top nine teams in the West on Jan. 27, when they beat Denver 90-85. They've since lost six straight against such teams, but will have two chances this week with home games against the Lakers (45-21) and San Antonio on Sunday.

In between, they host the NBA-leading Boston Celtics on Thursday.

"We feel like, at home, we should be ready," Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki said.

Nowitzki led the Mavs with 21 points in just 25 minutes in Dallas' 98-73 win over the lowly Miami Heat on Sunday. None of the Mavs' starters played more than 27 minutes in the blowout - the team's fifth straight win by at least 19 points.

"I wanted to get this team to a point where we can get some momentum," Dallas coach Avery Johnson said. "... Things could change quite a bit in the Western Conference over the next week or 10 days."

Some of that change could depend on Gasol, who was healthy and scored 17 points when the Mavericks visited Los Angeles on March 2. Still, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant had 52 points in the Lakers' 108-104 overtime win.

Now that Gasol is out with a sprained ankle and not expected to play Tuesday, Bryant said he'll have to carry even more of the offense.

Gasol only played 2 1/2 minutes before he suffered the injury Friday in a 108-98 loss at New Orleans, as Bryant had 36 points. Bryant then attempted 33 shots - a season high in a non-overtime game - but made just 11 and had only 24 points in Sunday's 104-92 loss at Houston.

"Teams obviously can crowd the lane and go back to playing the type of defense against us that we've seen in the past," Bryant said. "What we have to do is focus on the defensive end a lot more. And I'll obviously have to shoulder more of the load."

The Lakers, in the midst of a four-game road trip against West contenders, were knocked out of first place in the conference Sunday as the Rockets extended their winning streak to 22 games. Los Angeles last lost three straight games in late January, with center Andrew Bynum injured and Gasol still on the Memphis Grizzlies.

That skid included a 112-105 loss at Dallas, a game the Lakers lost despite 40 points from Bryant and 56.3 percent shooting from the field.

Los Angeles has lost four straight games at Dallas and five of seven to the Mavs overall.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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