LOS ANGELES — As the NBA season started its second full month on Sunday, the Dallas Mavericks showed once again that they seriously have what it takes to knock off some of the best teams the ultra-tough
Western Conference has to offer.
Luka Doncic was one rebound shy of producing another triple-double and the Mavs got great work from their second unit en route to stunning the highly-touted Los Angeles Lakers, 114-100, before a Sunday afternoon sellout crowd of 18,997 at STAPLES Center.
For the Mavs, this was truly a game-changing type of victory. The Lakers (17-3) came into the game armed with the best record in the entire NBA, and also were packing a 10-game winning streak while playing with an abundance of confidence and attracting headlines all across the NBA landscape.
But the Mavs (13-6) were not impressed as they overcame an early 10-point deficit and took total command of the game when they outscored the Lakers, 35-17, in the third quarter and carried a 94-79 lead into the fourth quarter.
From there, the Mavs built their lead to as much as 21 points as they’ll go into Tuesday’s finale of this three-game road trip in New Orleans on an extreme high after fighting off any and every rally the Lakers had up their sleeves.
“It means that we had a good day,” coach Rick Carlisle said, when asked about the significance of this head-turning victory. “We did a lot of good things and we’re going to stay humble.
“We move on to another hard game on Tuesday on national TV, and New Orleans will be sky-high for that. Every time we have a game like this people are more than ever throwing their best game at us.”
The Lakers tried to throw their best game at the Mavs. But the Mavs, who have won seven of their last eight games, were having none of that as they totally disrupted the Lakers’ offensive flow and turned 17 LA turnovers into 20 points.
Overall, the Mavs are an impressive 7-2 on the road, including wins at Denver, Houston and the Lakers. The Lakers are the top seed out West, Denver is second and Houston is fifth.
“It just shows that we’re capable of beating this level of teams,” forward Kristaps Porzingis said. “That’s it. On to the next one.”
This was the first time the Mavs halted a team’s double-digit winning streak since they went on the road and ended Miami’s 12-game winning streak in December of 2010. On Sunday, it was a methodical undertaking by the Mavs, who found themselves trailing, 30-20, with 1:13 to go in the first quarter, but regrouped and outscored the Lakers 67-37 to take a commanding 87-67 lead with 3:43 remaining in the third quarter.
With Delon Wright (17 points, five rebounds, nine assists, four steals) and Justin Jackson (15 points in 15 minutes) coming off the bench to provide a much-needed spark, the Mavs had the Lakers on their heels the entire second half.
Wright was 7-of-12 from the field and 3-of-6 from 3-point land and admitted that he had to force himself to look for his shot more than he has in the past.
“I’ve been hesitant a little bit this season for whatever reason,” Wright said. “But I came into the game knowing I was going to be way more aggressive and take the shots that are there and knock them down with confidence.”
Perhaps Wright took that tactic because he was motivated because he was playing in front of family and friends.
“Yes, you have friends and family watching,” Wright said. “My phone is probably going crazy.”
The Mavs themselves may have been motivated by the fact that Dirk Nowitzki was sitting courtside, and was given a nice video tribute on the overhead Jumbotron by the Lakers.. Either way, the Mavs were relatively crisp on offense and defense, and held the Lakers to just 38 points in the second half.
“We knew we were going to have our opportunities,” said Porzingis, who finished with 15 points and six boards. “We kind of started a little slow and they started with a lot of energy — they had a couple of steals and fast break points.
“We just have that confidence that if we keep working on defense our opportunities will come on offense. If we stick to that, in most cases we’re able to fight our way back in the game.”
Part of that fight came from the bench. And when Doncic finally got cooking and scored 21 second-half points, the Lakers had very little chance of extending their winning streak.
Doncic even wowed the crowd by drilling one of his patented step-back 3-pointer right in LeBron James’ grill. That pushed the Mavs ahead to their largest lead at 110-89 with 5:28 remaining in the game.
“It was a very intense game from the very beginning,” Carlisle said. “The guys on the floor made good adjustments as a team as the game went along with ball movement, finding space, finding each other.
“And in the second half it was one of our best defensive halves against a team that’s got the best record in the league. We did good things and stuck together, and It’s a really good win for us.”
Doncic finished with 27 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists. But he didn’t really get cranked up until the second half when he collected 21 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals.
“My first half was awful,” Doncic said. “It was awful for me.
“In the second half I felt better. I just wanted to keep attacking and trust my shot.”
Doncic was just 2-of-9 from the field with six points in the first half, and 8-of-14 from the field and 3-of-5 from 3-point territory in the second half.
“He made good adjustments in the second quarter,” Carlisle said. “He started moving the ball quickly and getting the ball back and that put him in some situations that were a little more difficult to predict.
“In the second half, more of the same. He made really good play-calls, took advantage on what was happening out there with matchups. Look, he hit a couple of hellacious shots that just a small handful of guys in the whole world can hit. LeBron James is one of them, he’s one of them. Those step-back 30-footers, it’s hard to describe how difficult that shot is.”
Dwight Powell also came through, big-time, for the Mavs as he collected 15 points and nine rebounds. But the play off the bench by Wright and Jackson really staggered the Lakers.
“Delon and Justin were great tonight,” Carlisle said. “Justin continues to really help us with timely shot-making he hit some threes in this game and in the game in Phoenix.
“Delon’s getting more and more comfortable with his teammates, with what we’re doing defensively. He’s one of the best we have on the perimeter and he gets deflections and steals and causes problems.”
If the Mavs keep winning games of this nature against the NBA’s elite, they know they could very well cause some problems when the postseason invitation are handed out.
“Top to bottom, we played 11 guys, and everybody contributed something when it counted,” Carlisle said. “There’s a certain responsibility you have when you get on a roll like this.
“We just got to understand it, keep our eye on the ball, stay focused, stay humble and stick together. That’s what it’s all about.”