The Lakers (25-50) have just seven games left to "fight" for lottery position. The Dallas Mavericks (45-31) are trying to hold on to a playoff berth.
The two will meet on Friday night at Staples Center, the Mavericks playing their second game at the facility in as many nights after defeating the Clippers on Thursday, 113-107.
Dallas is a half-game ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies (44-31) and Phoenix Suns (44-31) in the hunt for a playoff spot.
The Lakers are injured and still within range of the fourth or fifth position in the NBA draft lottery. A single victory over the final weeks of the season might lock the Lakers into the sixth slot in the lottery.
Pau Gasol (vertigo), Steve Nash (back, ankle), Xavier Henry (knee), Chris Kaman (calf), Jordan Farmar (groin) and Kobe Bryant (knee) are either game-time decisions or out altogether.
Even at 35 years old, Dirk Nowitzki is still one of the most dangerous scorers in the NBA.
At 21.6 points a night, Nowitzki leads the Mavericks in scoring, while shooting 49.2% from the field and 39.6% from three-point range.
The 7-foot forward's jump shot remains a devastating weapon for Dallas.
If Kaman can't go, the Lakers' front court will likely be Jordan Hill and rookie Ryan Kelly.
Kelly has proved to be a capable shot-blocker as a help defender. Individually, he's still learning how to defend some of the top players at the forward position.
Nearly the same height as Nowitzki, the 6-foot-11 Kelly is averaging 7.8 points and 3.6 rebounds a game this season.
Hill has proved to be capable of big games when given the minutes. On Wednesday, he scored 18 points with 15 rebounds against the Sacramento Kings.
Monta Ellis is a potent scorer for the Mavericks, but he's also a capable playmaker.
Without missing a game this season, Ellis has averaged 18.9 points with 5.8 assists while shooting 45.1% from the field. Though he's not necessarily a three-point shooter (31.8% behind the arc), the attention teams need to pay to Nowitzki opens up driving opportunities for Ellis.
Nick Young is seemingly back to full strength after a knee injury.
On Tuesday night, Young scored 40 points against the Portland Trail Blazers, hitting 15 of 26 shot attempts.
At 17.3 points a game, Young is a hair behind Gasol's team-best 17.4. Look for Young to eclipse Gasol before season's end.
The Lakers have no true motivation to win Friday, but the team has relished the chance to spoil other teams' playoff hopes.
Even on back-to-back nights, Dallas will give everything they have to make sure they don't lose a postseason berth at the hands of the Lakers.
Of course, the Suns came into Staples Center in a similar circumstance and were soundly defeated.
The Mavericks aren't likely to make the same mistake.
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