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Two struggling teams face off in Dallas on Christmas Day
  1. NBA

NBA: LA Lakers @ Dallas Mavericks Preview

The NBA has another busy Christmas slate in-store and the second game up is a clash between two of the league's elite players, who both find themselves on struggling teams.

While LeBron James and Luka Doncic are at different stages of their careers, the pair share some struggles this season with their sides languishing in the standings.

Last season's Western Conference finalists are eighth in the West, a shade above .500. Meanwhile, LeBron's Lakers have seen their resurgent form fade, leaving them third-bottom in the West – 2.5 games short of the final Play-in place.

That raises the stakes for both going into this Christmas clash.

What: LA Lakers @ DAL Mavericks
Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas
When: 14:30 ET, Sunday December 25th
How to watch: ESPN, ABC & ESPN App
Odds: LA Lakers +270, DAL Mavericks -340

Tough loss for Lakers

The Lakers head into Christmas on the back of two big losses. First up on Friday, they ruled Anthony Davis out for the short term, with the big man already missing four straight games. He had inspired them to turn their season around with a great run, lifting them into the Play-in race.

In the four games since, the Lakers recorded a narrow win before suffering three-straight losses, the latest of which came at home on Sunday night, as they lost 134-130 to a Charlotte Hornets side who had won only seven games all season prior to that clash, having lost nine of their last 10 heading into that contest.

The Lakers need a big step up on Christmas Day if they are going to match the Mavericks, one of the many sides in the West with a brilliant home record.

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Home advantage for Mavs

The hosts have had a mixed year off the back of a great Play-off run, with a 17-16 record which doesn't do justice to Doncic's MVP-calibre displays. However, the guard has little in the way of help around him, while his team have a dire record on their travels.

The Mavs have been bogged down by a 5-11 return on the road this season, but at home, they remain a force. A big disparity between home and away records has been a feature for most sides in the West this term, with the Denver Nuggets the only one of the 15 sides to have an above .500 road record.

The Mavericks have kept themselves in the Play-off chase thanks to their 12-5 record at home, while they've also managed to win 12 of 18 games against fellow Western sides. Those numbers don't bode well for the Lakers, making the Mavs worthy favorites at -340.

Defense a worry for Lakers

There's little surprise that the Lakers are a different team with AD than without him, while their defense has taken a hit in his absence. Davis had pushed the Lakers up the charts in their defensive rating, but they've tumbled without him and now concede 113.1 points per 100 possessions.

The Mavs are only slightly better, conceding 112.3 themselves. That could suggest another high-scoring game for the Lakers, having seen a total of 264 in their clash with the Hornets. With Over 226.5 Points on offer at -110, it's worth backing an entertaining game, especially as the Lakers will likely know that is their key to keeping it close.

Lakers can stay competitive

The Lakers head into this game with a 3-7 record over the last 10 and Dallas should claim another home win after their impressive season, but don't back it to be an easy one. The Mavs are -110 to clear an eight-point margin, but their record to date could be an issue.

There's little between the pair defensively so far, while the Mavs' home record doesn't mean they're a free-scoring side, even at their own arena. Dallas ranks 23rd in the league for points per game, sitting in the same position in terms of home points with 111.8 per night.

However, the Lakers are the second-highest away scorers in the league and Friday night showed they can have a high-scoring night without AD. LeBron and Russell Westbrook carried the load with a combined 51 points, with James is the NBA's leading Christmas Day scorer.

While you wouldn't rush to back an upset, the visitors should be able to keep things close. LeBron posted 39 points on Christmas Day last year with all eyes on him, so look to him to keep the Lakers in this one. The visitors with a +8 Spread at -110 is the way to go in this one.

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