Owning the best record in the NBA as November turned to December, the Lakers’ 17-2 mark heading into Sunday’s matinee with the Mavericks required a little bit of context.
The wins, while impressive, had largely come against garbage squads. Good teams are supposed to take care of business, sure, but the Lakers’ season—for all intents and purposes—was going to begin in December once their schedule became the hardest in the league over the next 31 days and stopped featuring a steady string of cupcakes.
On the first day of the final month of 2019, the Lakers played a team currently sporting a winning record for only the sixth time. And in their 20th game of the season, Los Angeles was busted up by one of the game's best players and one of its surprisingly better teams.
Behind their bench, a robust rebounding effort, and the continued brilliance of Luka Doncic—the second year sensation who out-played LeBron James and Anthony Davis, wowing the sold-out Staples Center crowd of 18,997—the Mavericks smacked around the Lakers 114-100 in downtown Los Angeles.
It was the Mavericks’ most impressive win of the season and a bit of a reality check for the Lakers, who had a 10-game winning streak snapped. But the talk after this one was largely about Doncic, whose second half performance was scintillating as Dallas avenged an overtime loss at home to the Lakers earlier this season. Doncic scored 21 of his 27 points after halftime, hitting 8-of-14 from the field as he guided the Mavericks during a blistering third quarter where they put up 35 points on one of the NBA’s best defensive squads. The 20-year-old sensation showed off his incredible skillset that included pin-point passes, precise drives to the basket, and two long step-back threes. Another one came with LeBron guarding him in the fourth.
“He hit a couple of hellacious shots that only a small handful of guys in the whole world can hit,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “LeBron James is one of them. He’s one of them. Those step-back 30 footers it’s hard to describe how hard the shot is and how easy he makes it look.”
While Doncic failed to record another triple-double—he leads the league with seven this season—he barely missed another one, ending up a rebound shy. Davis and James both filled up the stat sheet as usual—LeBron put up a line of 25, 9, and 8 while Davis went for 27, 10, and 2 blocks—but they had no help. Alex Caruso (10) was the only reserve to finish in double digits while the Mavericks out-rebounded the larger Lakers and got huge efforts from Delon Wright (17, 5, and 9) and Justin Jackson (15 points on 3-of-5 from deep). James finished with a +/- of -16. Kyle Kuzma, who's up and down season continued, played 21 minutes and scored just 4 points, finishing with a -15. Davis was a -7.
"We can play better," James said. "Obviously, we know this team is playing extremely well, especially on the road. We knew they wanted to get some get-back. We beat them on their floor, they beat us on our floor. It's a very good team."
Here are 12 other observations from Sunday’s Mavericks win.