Lakers Now

Lakers at Dallas Mavericks preview

On the heels of their Christmas Day loss, the Lakers take on Rajon Rondo and the Dallas Mavericks

The Lakers (9-20) may play their third straight game without Kobe Bryant on Friday night, visiting the Dallas Mavericks (20-10).

Resting from a laundry list of aches and pains, Bryant sat out the team's win over the Golden State Warriors (23-5) and a loss on Christmas Day to the Chicago Bulls (20-9).

The Mavericks, still adjusting to the acquisition of former Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, have lost two in a row.

The Lakers are still down Xavier Henry (Achilles' tendon), Ryan Kelly (hamstring), Steve Nash (back) and Julius Randle (leg). 

Key matchup

After his trade from Boston, Rondo has played three games for the Mavericks, averaging almost 10.7 points and 9.3 assists a game -- nearly a double-double.

Though he's not a great shooter, hitting 40% from the field, 27% from three-point range and a paltry 33.3% at the free-throw line, Rondo is still a high-impact contributor with his playmaking.

The Mavericks are loaded with scorers, including Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons.

Rondo has plenty of passing targets, and the Lakers will need to play a tremendous game defensively as Dallas leads the league at 109.6 points a game.

Ronny Price and Jeremy Lin will likely each get time against Rondo, but because the veteran point guard isn't looking to score, the rest of the Lakers will need to cover their individual assignments closely. Dallas has a knack for making teams pay for helping defensively.

Price has helped the Lakers recently with a few offensive spurts.  In the absence of Bryant, the team could use more from Lin both as a scorer and playmaker.

X-factor

The Lakers will have a challenge with Rondo, Nowitzki, Parsons, Ellis and the rest of the Dallas offensive machine.

Defensively, Tyson Chandler is a vital fixture in the middle, protecting the rim.

The Lakers' offense is more potent when players such as Jordan Hill, Ed Davis and Carlos Boozer are able to score in and around the paint.

If Chandler can keep the Lakers from scoring at the basket, including deterring driving guards, the Mavericks will have a significant advantage.

Hill is shooting 47.2% from the field this season, averaging 12.3 points a night. Davis' 7.6 a game comes on a highly efficient 64% shooting. Boozer is the most consistent of the three at 13 points a game at a 51.8% clip.

Outlook

With or without Bryant, the Lakers would have a difficult time beating the Mavericks in Dallas -- let alone on the second night of a back-to-back.

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus

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