The NBA on ESPN has a captivating double-header between two pairs of postseason contenders on their Friday night docket. Tune in as the Dallas Mavericks host the Miami Heat before the Los Angeles Lakers lay out the red carpet to welcome the sizzling Memphis Grizzlies to La-La Land.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Miami Heat (6:30 PM CT)
Luka Doncic nearly singlehandedly carried the Mavericks to an 8-1 record from late December to early January, nabbing outlandish nightly numbers as he made dominating the best league on earth look like child’s play. But his club has floundered as of late, winning only one of their last six games as they drop dangerously close to play-in tournament territory.
Despite receiving sorely-needed reinforcements in Josh Green and Dorian Finney-Smith on Wednesday, Dallas immediately took another massive hit to their rotation as Christian Wood joined the injury report with a fractured thumb. Continuous setbacks have hindered Jason Kidd and crew at every turn, and they can’t seem to recapture their magic from a year ago.
Much like their cross-conference counterparts, the Heat have endured an aggravating campaign. While they maintain a top-five defense in the NBA, their offense has sputtered to a staggering degree. The main culprit? That would be their horrible three-point percentage (33.8%), which has slipped from first in the league to 25th in less than a single season.
Miami has started showing signs of life, climbing above .500 and claiming the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference over the last month and a half of their schedule. The dynamic trio of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro are performing like All-Stars, and they could be in for a monumental performance against one of the worst defenses in the association.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Memphis Grizzlies (9:00 PM CT)
After a five-game winning streak that launched Los Angeles into the play-in tournament picture to ring in the new year, they have tumbled into 13th place in the cutthroat Western Conference. With Lonnie Walker IV, Austin Reaves, and Anthony Davis sidelined, an assortment of second and third-stringers have been thrust front and center to no avail.
A 38-year-old LeBron James has continued defying father time, averaging 34.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 7.7 assists on 55.3% shooting from the field across his last 17 games. He is on the verge of surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most points scored in league history, an incredible feat that basketball fans may never see achieved by another player.
Grizzlies superstar Ja Morant has also been busy etching his name in the record books this season. The high-flying floor general is on pace to join Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook, Allen Iverson, and Tony Parker as the fifth player six-foot-four or shorter to place inside the top ten in points in the paint in multiple seasons during the last two decades.
Memphis is on an NBA-best 11-game winning streak, and almost everyone on their roster has stepped up their production. Morant is in All-NBA form, Jaren Jackson Jr. is a DPOY candidate, Desmond Bane is knocking on the door of his first All-Star nod, Tyus Jones is making a case for 6MOTY, and you should 100% consider betting on the visitors tonight.