LOS ANGELES – It’s no secret that the Dallas Mavericks have one of the best benches in the entire NBA. But they strive to make sure that their starters also hold up their end of the bargain.

“They’ve had a great year,” coach Rick Carlisle said of the players off his bench. “But the truth is we need a really even contribution from our entire roster. We’re built as a team, quote unquote, ‘team.’

“Everything’s got to function well and together. We’ve made very good strides the last few weeks, and our goal tonight is to keep that going, but bench productivity has become one of the real big factors and successes in this league.”

The Mavs (10-9) hope to be functioning well and together Friday night at 9:30 when they face the Los Angeles Lakers (12-9) at the STAPLES Center.

The main two culprits off the Mavs’ bench are guards J. J. Barea and Devin Harris. But they also lean on forwards Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber, centers Dwight Powell and (lately) Salah Mejri, and guard Jalen Brunson.

Barea averages 11 points and a team-high 6.2 assists per game and has produced three double-doubles this season.
That includes scoring 13 points and dispensing 12 assists in only 18 minutes during Wednesday’s 128-108 win over the Houston Rockets.

Finney-Smith averages 8.9 points and 4.2 rebounds, Powell is averaging 8.8 points and 3.7 rebounds, Harris averages 8.1 points, and Kleber leads the Mavs in blocks (1.32 blocks per game) and also averages 6.5 points and 3.6 rebounds.

“The head of the snake is J. J.,” Kleber said. “He’s a key player for us, especially on offense. But the second unit, too, every time we get something, there’s a lot of energy.

“Guys like Dwight Powell, I don’t think anybody can match his energy level when he’s on the court. We can switch teams. (Finney-Smith) is one of the best defenders out there, he’s guarding the biggest stars every night and doing a really, really great job, which is key for us as the second unit.”

Despite all of that firepower coming from the Mavs’ bench, Carlisle knows overall they must match the energy level of the Lakers, who won at home on Thursday night against the Indiana Pacers, 104-96.

“I thought they played great,” Carlisle said, in dissecting the Lakers-Pacers game. “I thought they came out with super energy and really tough disposition.”

The Lakers beat the Mavs, 114-113, on Oct. 31 when LeBron James made the second of two free throw attempts with just 2.1 seconds remaining in the game. James finished with 29 points, five rebounds and six assists, and teammate JaVale McGee contributed 16 points, 15 rebounds and five blocked shots.

For the Mavs, Wesley Matthews scored 20 points and Harrison Barnes added 19. But the Mavs were playing upstream all night after falling behind, 38-21, at the conclusion of the first quarter.

“They’re a team that is a very strong first quarter team, and they hit us the last time with, I think, an 8-0 run to start the game, and that’s just one of their strength,” Carlisle said. “So we’re going to have to be ready and be in a hit-first quarter (mode) ourselves when the ball goes up.”

And the Mavs’ bench will have to be ready to continue holding up their end of the bargain.

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