Lakers vs. Mavericks: Playoff chasers meet in Dallas

Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

The Los Angeles Lakers face the Mavericks in Dallas as both teams chase Houston for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

In two very different ways, the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks are using unique motivational tactics to keep themselves focused on the playoff chase.

The Lakers, two games back of the Houston Rockets for the eight spot in the Western Conference, have heavy hearts after Hall of Fame owner Jerry Buss passed away. Kobe Bryant has used the death of Buss as a motivational chip, asking his teammates to fight for the cause rather than worry about the many struggles that have plagued a team whose roster has disappointed despite its own Hall of Fame pedigree.

Bryant has also used a self-motivational tactic in making a guarantee that Los Angeles will make the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks (25-29) don't have such emotional wood to keep that fire to stay in the playoff hunt alive. But behind Los Angeles by only one game, a win against the Lakers in Dallas on Sunday afternoon would tie the teams up in the conference standings. Dallas players have assumed a no-shave policy until the team reaches .500.

A win for the Mavericks would be pivotal, evening the field by jumping into a tie with the Lakers while separating themselves from Portland, which is a half-game behind Dallas in the standings heading into Sunday.

Dwight hones in on winning

Lakers center Dwight Howard has taken his lumps this season, admitting that his conditioning has hampered him following the recovery from offseason back surgery. As of late, he's put aside the excuses and produced, writes Silver Screen and Roll's Drew Garrison:

This is a game where Dwight Howard can shine. After hanging 24 points and 12 rebounds on the C's, he added another 19 points and 16 rebounds against the Blazers, and has been movin' and groovin'. Against the Blazers he had perhaps his most efficient game from the post this season for the Lakers, hitting isolation post hooks over Portland's smaller frontline.

Howard could be a key factor against the Mavs, though Dallas center Chris Kaman is set to return after sitting out since Jan. 28 following a concussion, according to ESPN Dallas.

Winning the turnover battle

Both the Lakers and Mavs are in the top-five in pace, according to Basketball-Reference.com. With that said, turnovers could be key for the Mavericks, who could use their relative speed against the slower Lakers to gain the advantage.

At 14.1 turnovers per game, Dallas is in the top-five in the NBA in that category, but Los Angeles is 26th in the league at 15.6 turnovers per outing. The Lakers are second-to-last in turnover differential, as their defense only forces opponents into 13.3 turnovers per game.

Time: 1 p.m. ET

TV: ABC

Odds: Dallas opened as a 5-point favorite.

More in the NBA:

The best (and worst) NBA rumors of 2013:

Mike Woodson calls out Carmelo Anthony

The unfortunate twists of Derrick Rose's return

Ziller's NBA trade deadline winners and losers

Grading every deadline deal

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.