What a game. Everything a Lakers fan would want out of Lakers vs. Mavericks they got it. Star performances? A duel between two or more of those stars? Big shot making from role players? A super clutch final second play that forced overtime? The Lakers winning? Yes to all of the above.
The Lakers beat the Mavs 119-110 on Friday night, moving their record to 4-1 and showing that they have a little bit of mettle and can conjure up some luck here and there too. This game was really about 4 different games in one, making it a roller coaster of a watch and, honestly, super stressful but ultimately rewarding. I can’t imagine how I’d have felt if they’d lost this one, thankfully I don’t have to consider that this morning.
The first part of this game was super frustrating. Danny Green picked up two quick fouls and JaVale McGee’s relative lack of energy and inattentiveness defensively led to breakdowns in coverages, especially near the basket. The Mavs feasted on the Lakers in P&R’s, getting lobs and open 3’s, seemingly, whenever they wanted them.
I told you before the game that I worried about the Lakers being able to cover pick and pop actions with Porzingis, but it was traditional P&R’s with Dwight Powell rolling to the rim which gave the Lakers fits early (and, honestly, throughout the entire game). With the Lakers worried about the lob threat, Luka Doncic then started to pick them apart with skip and hook passes to spot up shooters as the defense collapsed to help in the paint.
The Lakers, though, started to adjust. After subbing out JaVale and moving AD to center and being more attentive on the perimeter while chasing and closing out harder, the game started to turn. The Lakers were able to get the game close again, but ultimately that was short lived. The Mavs had control for the entire first half and, as I said on twitter, the Lakers seemed lucky to be down only 10 at halftime after playing what was their worst half of basketball this season.
The 3rd quarter is where things started to turn, but again, that was relatively short lived. LeBron James started to assert some control and the results were great — for a while. The Lakers erased the halftime deficit with a 10-0 run to start the period and things looked like they’d turned for good. The Lakers even took a small lead and it looked like they might seize control of the game. But defensive mistakes resurfaced and a lax stretch to end the quarter left the Lakers trailing by 9 to start the 4th.
In the final quarter, I’d have not been surprised if the Lakers just played out the stretch and lost. After all, they’d made several pushes and the Mavs ended up just reasserting themselves to regain control time after time. There’s a deflating effect that has on a team and, honestly, I thought the Lakers were there. The team’s stars would not let that happen, however.
Down the stretch of regulation, the Lakers again tightened up their defense with a guard rotation of Bradley, Alex Caruso, and Danny Green mixing and matching around LeBron, AD, and Dwight Howard. That group scratched and clawed on defense while featuring LeBron and AD on offense. A back and forth affair developed where the Mavs did not fold but the Lakers kept hitting shots, making for some riveting basketball that really was the ultimate “what makes being a fan fun” experience.
The pinnacle of this feeling was Danny Green’s shot to tie the game at the buzzer in regulation. Down 3 with under 10 seconds, Frank Vogel drew up a wonderful play to get LeBron the ball going to his left on the move while setting up a weakside “hammer” screen action for Green to slide to the corner. As LeBron drove to the hoop, the Mavs mistakenly rotated to him while Dwight set a screen (where he got away with a hold) on Green’s man. LeBron fired a pass to the corner, Green up faked to let the defender fly-by, and Green buried the 3 to send the game to OT.
In overtime the Lakers took control, mostly on the back of LeBron being LeBron and some easy baskets from AD. The team clearly also benefitted from a not-quite-right Luka Doncic who had collided with Dwight late in the 4th quarter, knocking heads, and causing a small gash to open on the back of his head. Luka stayed in the game (sitting out only a couple of defensive possessions at the end of regulation), but looked somewhat out of it. After the game it was reported that Luka went through the league’s concussion protocol before being allowed to play, but he never left the bench area and as much as the cameras were on him, they never caught the doctors doing more than asking him a couple of questions while giving him an ice pack.
The result, then, was a game I’m sure the Mavs fans are not happy about (Luka’s injury + Dwight’s screen that freed up Green to force OT), but one the Lakers pulled out by showing some guile, moxie from their stars, and timely shot making from LeBron, AD, and Green. The team is now 4-1 and through 5 games sits at the top of the conference. It’s early, but the Lakers are showing some signs.
Now, for some notes…
- Let’s talk stat lines from this game because there were some doozies. LeBron had a 39 point, 12 rebound, 16 assist triple double. The 16 assists was the highest total for any player this season. He hit 13 of his 23 FG’s, including 4-9 from distance. He also hit 9 of his 11 FT’s. And he had 4 steals. Davis scoring 31 points of his own, grabbed 8 rebounds, had 2 each of assists, steals, and blocks. Doncic, like LeBron, also had a triple double with 31 points, 13 rebounds, and 15 assists.
- Porzingis had a 16 point, 9 rebound night but was a non-factor for most of the 4th quarter and all of overtime. I know this was a low stakes game and he had AD defending him for most of the night, but I’m sure Mavs fans wanted to see him get more involved rather than just floating around the perimeter not even getting touches on most possessions. One the times he did try to be aggressive, however, he drove into the lane, lost the ball, and it led to LeBron getting a steal and then racing full court for a massive two-hand dunk.
- Re-watch the clip above. Seriously, you have time.
- It’s rare that we get a decent sized sample of two lineups that only differ by one player, but we got that last night from the Lakers when the starting group of Bradley/Green/LeBron/AD/JaVale and a group that swapped Dwight for JaVale both got 12 minutes of game action together. The numbers from both groups are interesting: The starting group had an Offensive Rating of 120.8 and a Defensive Rating of 112.0 for a net rating of +8.8; the lineup with Dwight had an Offensive Rating of 133.3 and a Defensive Rating of 76.0, for a net rating of +57.3. I’m just going to leave that there, for now.
- The Lakers only hit 9 of their 32 shots from deep. This was a problem. AD and Kuzma combined to go 0-9. Bradley, Troy Daniels, and KCP combined to go 1-6. Imagine if LeBron doesn’t go 4-9 and Green doesn’t go 3-6…welp.
- More good minutes from Alex Caruso in this game, especially defensively. He also had a hammer dunk on an attacking drive down the middle. I’m not going to cape for him here, since I’ve done that plenty this season. But, he does need to play more and if that means he takes another guard’s rotation spot, so be it. He’s earned it through 5 games.
- Kuzma made his return this game and looked like a guy who hand’t played real basketball in over two months. His legs looked heavy during stretches of both of his shifts and it was particularly noticeable on how many jumpers he left short and how he was a non-factor on the defensive glass. That said, he had a couple of very nice cuts and showed a comfort level moving off the ball using screens. It was good to see him out there.
- The Lakers were out-rebounded by 20 and I’m not sure I’ve seen a worse effort on the backboards from them all year. Dallas’ wings were active in crashing the offensive glass and the Lakers just never adjusted to it. If the Lakers would have lost this game it would have been because of rebounding and outside shooting. The fact they won in the face of how bad these numbers were speaks to the level their stars played to.
That’s it for this game, folks. We’ll see you tomorrow for the Spurs game.