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Luka Doncic outduels LeBron James as Lakers fall to Mavs for third straight loss

Despite an improved effort from the Lakers, Luka Doncic and the Mavs were too much for LeBron James and the Lakers on Tuesday.

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Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Late-game turnovers and empty possessions by the Lakers to close Tuesday night’s game against the Mavericks proved too costly to overcome as L.A. dropped their third straight, 109-104.

LeBron James led a much more spirited effort from the purple and gold and the energy made up for some of the mistakes, the execution throughout the night and particularly down the stretch was too much to overcome.

After looking set for another blowout on national television, a huge third quarter from the Lakers helped them erase a 21-point deficit and even saw them lead for stretches of the second half. James led that rally, scoring a team-high 26 points with 12 rebounds and five assists.

James got the start at center once again as the Lakers went small with a never-before-used lineup of Russell Westbrook, Malik Monk, Austin Reaves and Stanley Johnson around James. While that lineup produced mixed results, it was a stark, stark improvement from their loss Sunday, even if moral victories do nothing for the Lakers at this point in the season.

Carmelo Anthony scored 20 points off the bench and Monk added 17 points, five rebounds and four assists. As a team, the Lakers shot 14/34 from the 3-point line and committed only 12 turnovers after 16 in the first half alone on Sunday.

It was vastly, vastly improved showing for the Lakers after one of the lowest points of the season against New Orleans. In that loss to the Pelicans, the Lakers looked lifeless, listless and ready to give up on the season. From the opening tip on Tuesday, effort was never an issue and helped the team overcome many of its shortcomings on the night.

Led by its youthful injection in the starting lineup, the Lakers played with more energy and spirit than they had in some time, opening up a lead early on and holding it for much of the frame.

Unsurprisingly, though, Luka Doncic was up to the task and helped the Mavericks take a 22-21 lead just past the midway point of the quarter, first by throwing a no-look lob to Maxi Kleber before finishing at the rim on the next possession. His putback slam — yes really — over Dwight Howard, though, was the highlight of the quarter.

After the Lakers took a 25-22 lead, the Mavericks closed the frame on an 8-0 run, most of that coming after James went to the bench, to take a 30-25 lead into the second period.

A string of and-one baskets to start the quarter saw the Mavericks lead increase to 10 points at 38-28. Spencer Dinwiddie continued his strong spell with Dallas after being acquired at the deadline by pushing the lead to 44-32 following a corner 3-pointer, forcing a Laker timeout.

The Mavericks did not let up, the lead ballooning to 16 points midway through the second period. While the Lakers starting lineup was playing with much-improved energy, they still were not a particularly effective group.

A Josh Green basket moments after Talen Horton-Tucker exited the game after turning an ankle quickly changed the vibe of the game with the Mavericks up 56-38 and nothing working for the Lakers.

Westbrook’s technical out of the ensuing timeout was the second of the night — soon followed by head coach Frank Vogel for the third — for the Lakers and Doncic added a jumper on the other end as the lead touched 21 points. Even when the Lakers look like they were about to go on a run, cutting the lead to 14 points, back-to-back 3-pointers from Dorian Finney-Smith pushed the lead right back up to 18 points.

Finney-Smith and Monk traded 3-pointers to close the half and the visitors headed into the locker room up 71-56.

At last, the Lakers finally made a run in the second half with a 13-1 run that featured an Austin Reaves layup, a 3-pointer from Malik Monk, a 3-pointer from Stanley Johnson, free throws from Monk and another Johnson 3-pointer to cap the run off with the Lakers trailing just 72-69.

While the Mavs initially stretched the lead back out, logo LeBron showed up as he buried a 3-pointer from just inside halfcourt to keep the deficit at just three points. James continued his red-hot shooting with a fading 3-pointer a handful of possessions later to tie the game at 78 apiece.

Malik Monk gave the Lakers their first lead since the first quarter with a putback layup on a fastbreak at 82-80. After LeBron eventually went to the bench, all hell broke loose as the teams traded baskets and 3-pointers with the Lakers eventually taking an 87-85 lead into the final frame after outscoring the Mavs 31-14 in the third.

Another strong start to the quarter saw LeBron’s baseline drive and dunk give the hosts a six-point lead. After the Mavs cut the lead to two points, a LeBron jumper and Anthony 3-pointer restored a five-point advantage.

Big shots from Jalen Brunson and Doncic kept the Mavs within a point as James sat before Doncic and Powell capped off an 11-0 run as part of a stretch of seven straight made shots for the guests to give them a 105-100 lead.

After a timeout, Westbrook stopped the run with a cutting dunk down the middle of the lane. Doncic kept the lead at five points with a floater on the next possession. A slew of turnovers and missed opportunities by the Lakers down the stretch kept them from taking advantage of their improved effort on Tuesday as the Mavs closed out the game without little resistance from the hosts.

For the second time in three games, the Lakers will face a team also in the play-in game as they meet the Clippers on Thursday in a “road” game. It’ll be yet another nationally televised game on TNT with tip-off slated for 10 p.m.

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