Definitive Guide to LA Lakers vs. Dallas Mavericks and Tuesday's Top NBA Games

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistNovember 5, 2013

Definitive Guide to LA Lakers vs. Dallas Mavericks and Tuesday's Top NBA Games

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    The NBA is combating early work-week dejection, one Tuesday night slate of entertaining games at a time.

    Monday blues often carry over into Tuesday, when you're still a day removed from hump day and four days short of the weekend. Never fear—the NBA has you covered.

    Nearly 20 different teams are in action tonight. From the Miami Heat bringing their on-again, off-again regular-season act to Canada, to the Brooklyn Nets looking to prove they can win games against non-playoff teams, to the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks engaging in the battle of the mediocre, there's plenty to watch.

    Even if your team isn't on the schedule tonight, this lineup is worth a look-see. Points will be scored by the Houston Rockets, hard fouls dealt out by the Indiana Pacers, simplistic offensive sets run by the New York Knicks and world domination achieved by Eric Bledsoe.

    Enter weekend mode early and join almost two-thirds of the Association in some epic Tuesday night festivities.


    Tuesday Night's Lineup

    Miami Heat vs. Toronto Raptors, 7 p.m. ET

    Utah Jazz vs. Brooklyn Nets, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Indiana Pacers vs. Detroit Pistons, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Charlotte Bobcats vs. New York Knicks, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Phoenix Suns vs. New Orleans Pelicans, 8 p.m. ET

    Los Angeles Lakers vs. Dallas Mavericks, 8:30 p.m. ET (NBATV)

    San Antonio Spurs vs. Denver Nuggets, 9 p.m. ET

    Houston Rockets vs. Portland Trail Blazers, 10 p.m. ET

    Atlanta Hawks vs. Sacramento Kings, 10 p.m. ET


    *All stats in this article are accurate as of November 4, 2013.

Best Matchup of the Night: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Dallas Mavericks

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    In a conference where mediocre teams are generally swallowed whole, there are the Lakers and Mavericks. 

    Both franchises would never admit it, but they're not contenders. General manager Mitch Kupchak, along with the Buss family, would never say the Lakers aren't playing for a title because, you know, the injured Kobe Bryant's death stare. Similar sentiments would never come out of Dallas because Mark Cuban is delusional and really believes the Mavs have pieced together a better-than-average team.

    Still, there are no championships to be won by either team. There may be a playoff berth to be had, though—by one of them.

    These are the games both the Lakers and Mavericks must win. Contests against their equals will come few and far between out West, where half the teams sport superstars in their prime.

    Winning tilts like this now could be the difference between a lottery berth and a first-round playoff exit later on.

Must-See Individual Matchup: Eric Bledsoe vs. Jrue Holiday

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    When two of the NBA's brightest young point guards do battle, you watch.

    Bledsoe has been sensational for the above-.500 Suns. Through three games, he's torching opponents for 22.0 points, 8.7 assists and 6.3 rebounds. Kindly look past his 41 percent shooting in favor of his game-winner against the Utah Jazz.

    Then there's Jrue Holiday, who has quietly put together a terrific start to 2013-14 as well. In three games, he's notched 18.3 points, six assists and 3.3 rebounds per game. Like Bledsoe, he is hovering around 40 percent from the floor, but he's shooting a whopping 55.6 percent from deep.

    New Orleans, an appointed playoff contender, is pining for its second victory of the season, looking to climb back to .500 after two disappointing losses to the Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers. Phoenix, well, I have no idea what it's looking for. A win? And a chance to go 3-1, Philadelphia 76ers-style? Or a loss, complete with tanking intentions?

    Doesn't really matter. All we need to know is that Bledsoe was firing away nearly 15 times a game before Goran Dragic went down. Imagine what he has in store as the sole survivor of Phoenix's backcourt tandem.

Who Has the Most on the Line?

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    Win over the Heat? Check. Losses to a pair of teams who may not even make the playoffs? Check and check.

    Solving Brooklyn has been impossible this early in the season. One night, the Nets are making the Heat pay for phoning in their regular season, and the next they're getting walloped by the Orlando Magic, Celebrity Deathmatch style.

    Circumstances have hardly been ideal, what with Jason Kidd only just returning to the sidelines and Deron Williams on a minutes cap. But these Nets were supposed to be better than losses to the Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers. They're supposed to be contenders.

    Years of watching good teams start slow has taught me three things: 1) Offseason hangovers are a thing, 2) the Milwaukee Bucks are never one of those good teams and 3) you can't render verdicts this early.

    A loss to the Jazz wouldn't mean the world was ending. On paper, Brooklyn will still be a contender if it drops one to a tanker. Losing at home, however, to a team that clearly doesn't want to win, would still be a disaster.

    You might even be compelled to render one of those nifty premature verdicts if that's what the Nets do.

Critical Scratches

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    Atlanta Hawks

    Lou Williams, Knee: Hurry back, Lou. Seriously.


    Charlotte Bobcats

    Al Jefferson, Ankle: Even when the Bobcats are actively trying not to tank, they're tanking.


    Denver Nuggets

    Danilo Gallinari, Knee: Don't worry, he still has cool hair.


    Houston Rockets

    Patrick Beverley, Rib: This one remains unfair. And no one's excited about his extended absence, save for maybe Russell Westbrook.


    Indiana Pacers

    Danny Granger, Calf: Valid question: Is Granger really critical to Indy's success anymore? The Pacers, specifically Lance Stephenson, seem to be doing just fine without him.


    Los Angeles Lakers

    Kobe Bryant, Achilles: Here's hoping that Kobe takes to Twitter with an "Amnesty That" post aimed at Cuban, complete with a video of him dunking on a Little Tikes hoop.


    New Orleans Pelicans

    Ryan Anderson, Foot: Fewer three-pointers are already being shot in New Orleans. I am not happy about it.


    New York Knicks

    J.R. Smith, SuspensionFour down, one to go, before a rotation Mike Woodson already cannot figure out becomes even more complicated.


    Phoenix Suns

    Goran Dragic, Ankle: Per AZ Central's Paul Coro, Dragic is expected to miss two games with an ankle sprain. It's a shame, really. Dragic and Bledsoe quickly emerged as one of the most entertaining backcourts in the NBA. On the plus side, this means more shots and touches for the miniature version of LeBron James. Awesome.


    Sacramento Kings

    Carl Landry, Hip: Sacramento overpaid him during the offseason, and now he's out until at least mid-January. That seems about right.


    *All injury information obtained from CBS Sports unless otherwise specified.

Pop-In Potential: Houston Rockets vs. Portland Trail Blazers

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    This was almost my matchup of the night, so you better believe this is one you should pop in on League Pass given the opportunity.

    Houston is coming off a tough loss to the Los Angeles Clippers—who, by the way, still don't play defense—but it won its first three games. Taking down the Clippers stood to be the Rockets' first statement win, though. Their first three opponents—the Bobcats, Mavericks and Jazz—all figure to be lottery teams when the dust settles.

    After dropping their first game of the season to the Suns, the Blazers are working off two convincing victories over the Nuggets and Spurs. Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge are both averaging over 25 points per game, and the offense is faring just swimmingly overall.

    Think about it: Dwight Howard, James Harden, Lillard and Aldridge all on the same court. Together. Looking to assert their respective teams' superiority.

    This one's going to be good.

    More playing time for Thomas Robinson would make it even better, but whatever.

Fantasy Stock Watch

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    Floating fantasy heads, I got your back.

    Looking for the one star who will have a bigger night than usual? Or a luminary headed for a bounce-back, take-that-Charlotte (spoiler) performance? I still got your back.

    Hoping against hope that your Suns can keep their crazy train rolling? I unfortunately don't have your back, but I can refer you to some Sixers fans who might.


    The Big Guns

    Carmelo Anthony

    Something is going down against Charlotte, and it's not going to be Carmelo Anthony's fantasy stock.

    New York's favorite volume scorer is shooting just 37.7 percent from floor, but it's been a fair trade-off when you consider he's emerged as a double-double threat also capable of racking up a few steals and assists.

    But what Anthony does best is score. He's the reigning scoring champion, for Pete's sake. Passive offensive tendencies aren't going to last forever.

    "I got to put the ball in the hole," Melo said, per the New York Daily News' Peter Botte. "That’s what I do best and I got to do that. There’s no need for me to take that away from myself when I know that I can do that. When I do that, we’re a hell of a team.”

    Think of the Knicks' bout against the Bobcats as watching Carmelo Anthony unchained. Figure on him eclipsing 25 points (at least) for the first time all year.


    Pau Gasol

    Who on the Mavericks is going to stop Pau Gasol? Dirk Nowitzki? Samuel Dalembert? Cuban's "We're better off without Dwight Howard, but not really" stare?

    Dallas isn't built to defend bigs to begin with, let alone one like Gasol, who has the range of a stretch forward and passing acumen of a point guard. The Spaniard isn't shooting particularly well from the field (40.4 percent), but few people are this time of year. Everyone's working through rust and offseason eating binges.

    Early on, Gasol has been good for a double-double, and as long as he remains Los Angeles' primary center, threatening to record triple-doubles is an actual thing.

    Especially against the Mavs, who don't play defense. Because they can't.


    The Sleeper

    Jeff Teague

    Is he even a sleeper anymore? He's been that good. 

    Never mind the 18.3 points, 8.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game; he's going up against the Kings. Sacramento's backcourt rotation is confusing, and there's not a dribble-penetration stopper in the bunch.

    DeMarcus Cousins' pick-and-roll defense is also notoriously meh, meaning the Teague-Al Horford combination should be be money tonight.

    Count on Teague to sustain his season averages...and then some.