The Lakers fought hard to come back after a dominant Dallas start to force overtime, but ultimately they just didn’t have quite enough to outduel Luka Dončić and the Mavericks, falling 119-115. Luka led all scorers with 35 points.
LeBron James led the charge for L.A. with 24 points, 15 rebounds and 9 assists, and Russell Westbrook was in Sixth Man of the Year form with 28 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists leading the bench unit. But despite the positive offensive performances from the Lakers stars, the team defended the perimeter poorly allowing Dallas to shoot 33% from three and giving up too many points off turnovers (18) to overcome their poor start.
The defeat is the fourth in a row for L.A. against Dallas, keeping the Lakers (19-23) in 12th place in the Western Conference Standings.
Darvin Ham’s strategy of containing Luka and letting the shooters shoot didn’t work early on, as Dallas scored 36 points, shooting 61% from the field. It wasn’t just the Luka show for Dallas; they had three players tied at nine points in the period. The Lakers got nothing from anyone, just five points from the starting group, and Russ led the way with eight points off the bench.
L.A. fought back in the second, cutting the lead to as little as four thanks to Christie running shooters off the 3-point line, Russ attacking the basket and Bron heating up and scoring seven in the quarter. However, midway through the frame Luka got going and closed the half by securing an 11-point advantage for the Mavs.
In the third, it became clear the best player on the court was Luka. He was hitting threes, scoring through double teams and just making spectacular offensive plays. L.A. simply had no defensive scheme that could slow him down and no offense to keep up with his production.
Luka is so fun. He does such wild things with the basketball in his hand.— Sabreena Merchant (@sabreenajm) January 13, 2023
Down by half a dozen at home, the Lakers did what they always have done under Darvin Ham: They fought. Russ and Kendrick Nunn hit back-to-back baskets, cutting the deficit to one. L.A. took their first lead since the first minute of the game midway through the final frame, and from there on out it was a hectic pace from both sides. Lots of transition plays, fouls and turnovers as Dallas tried not to choke and Los Angeles tried to steal one from the Mavs.
In the end, the Lakers' offense got production from everyone on the floor in the closing minutes and took the lead with eleven seconds left. However, that was too much time for Luka, who hit a game-tying three to send the game to OT after a failed Troy Brown game-winner that featured a lot of contact, but no call.
Free basketball is always a good thing and we got a double dose of that on Thursday night. LeBron missed shots but hit back-to-back free throws to give L.A. the lead in the closing minutes of the first OT, but Luka responded once again with a three to tie the game. LeBron had one final attempt to win and appeared to get mauled at the rim, but no call was made and we headed to the second overtime.
Entering the second OT, fatigue began to set in for both teams. More fouls, more bricked shots and fewer baskets. LeBron (0-7 on threes in the night in 47 minutes) had nothing left and missed all three field goal attempts he took, and Spencer Dinwiddie (17 points, 7-13 shooting) made a pair of baskets to give the Mavericks a two-possession lead. This time Dallas kept it for good and finally did what we all thought they would do when they got off to their dominant start to the evening: beat the Lakers.
This was a tough loss but if there is such a thing as a moral victory for a team that needs every real win it can get right now, this has to be one. The Lakers never folded and pushed Dallas, a team that went to the Western Conference Finals last season, to the absolute limit. Yes, it was a loss and even moral victories this late can be moot, but you have to give L.A. credit for their effort tonight.
The Lakers will get some much-needed rest after this long evening, as they don’t have another game until Sunday. And they’ll need all the time off they can get, because Sunday they face off against the Sixers another team with a good record and a superstar player in Joel Embiid.
Hopefully, they can avoid double overtime in that one — and maybe even snag a win.