A pair of teams optimistic for the road ahead will meet Sunday afternoon when the Los Angeles Lakers pay a visit to the Dallas Mavericks.
Both rosters were retooled this month, with the Mavericks trading for Kyrie Irving and the Lakers adding a variety of players, including Malik Beasley, D'Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt and Mo Bamba.
The Mavericks' synergy between fellow stars Irving and Luka Doncic was not immediate. Irving made his Mavericks debut when Doncic was out with an injury and the team won consecutive games. But when they merged their talents together, Dallas lost a pair of games before the All-Star break.
Doncic and Irving finally broke through together during the Mavs' 142-116 home victory Thursday against the San Antonio Spurs in the team's return from the break. Doncic had 28 points with 10 assists, while Irving had 23 points and six assists.
The tag-team duo combined to shoot 16 of 29 from the field (55.2 percent), while making 4 of 10 attempts from 3-point range.
"The ball was moving," Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said. "We saw that before the break. Guys moving, too. ... The ball doesn't stick."
It was Dallas' highest-scoring game this season, while shooting its fourth-best percentage (56.1) from the field and best from 3-point range (52.4 percent). Justin Holiday made his Dallas debut after he was added following a buyout from the Houston Rockets and had 15 points.
"For us, this is a time to get to know one another and get some of those guys back healthy and into the rotation," Kidd said. "And then we got to build that rotation going into the last 15 games."
While Thursday's Mavs victory was against the 14th-place team in the Western Conference, Sunday's game is against a squad just one place higher in the standings. But the Lakers appear to have addressed roster deficiencies, and they have the ultimate team leaders in LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
While getting the roster on the same page is the goal, the real priority will be to keep James and Davis healthy down the stretch. It's not a given, with both hampered by nagging injuries this season.
The Lakers returned from the All-Star break in style as they put together a team effort during a 124-111 home victory Thursday over the Golden State Warriors. Beasley led Los Angeles with 25 points in just his fourth game with the team.
James and Davis did not have to carry the load against Golden State, scoring 13 and 12 points, respectively, in 26 minutes each. But James did try to make an impact on the game, taking 20 shots from the field but making just five.
"We're still figuring it out, but it looks really good," Davis said. "We're playing well, clicking and we know we don't have much time."
Russell rolled his right ankle during the first quarter Thursday and was ruled out for the remainder of the game. He is doubtful for Sunday.
"He's still going through some different treatment procedures," Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said. "... There's no structural damage or anything like that. It's going to be a day-by-day thing."
--Field Level Media