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Preview: Lakers (49-14) at Mavericks (40-27)
Date: January 07, 2019 8:30 PM EDT
  

The Dallas Mavericks will look to get back to some home cooking, while the Los Angeles Lakers will be looking for anything good to happen when the two teams slipping down the Western Conference standings meet Monday night.

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The Lakers, who are still awaiting LeBron James' return from a groin injury,dropped to 1-5 without the NBA's leading All-Star vote-getter after getting destroyed Sunday afternoon at Minnesota. The Lakers' descent in the West standings has been swift and also aided by power forward Kyle Kuzma missing the last two games, both losses, with a bruised lower back.

Los Angeles, which has defeated the Mavs twice earlier season in Los Angeles, are hopeful Kuzma will be ready to the face the Mavs, who in contrast to their 3-18 road record, are 15-3 at home and have won 13 of their last 14 at American Airlines Center.

Lakers backup point guard Rajon Rondo has missed six games and will be out for an extended period following surgery to repair his right ring finger. But it's James' absence that is a killer for a team that rode his 27.3 points a game to as high as fourth place in the crowded and competitive West playoff chase.

Suddenly the LeBron-less Lakers make their first trip to Dallas clinging to the eighth playoff spot, and knowing James won't be back in uniform for at least another two games.

"We've got to get him healthy," Lakers coach Luke Walton said of James on Friday. "We all talk all year, we need everyone on our team. You don't want anyone to get hurt. That's how the NBA season plays out. We're down in bodies. It's going to be a challenge, but our guys should be excited for that. We've got to find a way to keep playing at a high level and try to finish some of these games out."

Only the Denver Nuggets (16-3) have a better home record in the West than the Mavs, who will be thrilled to be back on their home floor after a 1-3 road swing. The lone victory came at Charlotte, when Dallas buried 10 3-pointers in the first quarter to build an insurmountable early lead on Wednesday.

Monday's game is an important one for Dallas, which has seen its short stay in the top eight of the West quickly slide.

"It's not just about going," Mavs guard Wesley Matthews told the Dallas Morning News following Saturday's 106-100 loss at Philadelphia. "We know what we can do at home. If we want to get where we want to go, we're going to have to win on the road. We're not cowards. We're not quitters. It's got to happen out here (on the road)."

Dallas is home for a quick two-game homestand. The Phoenix Suns are in town Wednesday and then the Mavs play three of their next five on the road at Minnesota, Indiana and Milwaukee.

The Lakers will be playing their ninth of 13 sets of back-to-back games this season. They are 5-3 on the second night of consecutive games, but 0-1 without James.

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