It may have been an early start for these teams, but there were no signs of them still waking up to start. Both came out aggressive, specifically Dennis Smith Jr. who had eight of the Mavericks’ first 11 points, and the Lakers’ Julius Randle, a Dallas native, who put up 10 first quarter points. Outside of DSJ, the Mavericks were ice cold, shooting 5-of-18 in the first, down 31-20 after one.
In the second quarter the Mavericks’ second unit did some work to close the gap, with help from Dwight Powell who put up eight first half points (13 for the game). But the first half show was Dennis Smith Jr., who did everything offensively, putting up 17 points (6/11 shooting, 3/5 from three in the half). The Mavericks outscored the Lakers 32-15 in the second quarter, and the Mavericks went to the locker room up 52-46.
The third quarter saw neither team take a considerable lead, both sticking within a few points of each other for most of the frame. Brandon Ingram did not return to the game after half time due to a turned ankle. But the Lakers didn’t seem to miss a beat, closing the intermission gap, with the Mavericks up 73-70 after three.
Dirk kicked off the fourth with his first field goal of the game, a three that pushed the Mavs lead to ten, prompting a Lakers timeout. The Lakers returned with plenty of answers and took the lead on a 14-3 run.
Feeling nearly inevitable for most Mavs games right now, the teams entered the final five minutes within a point of each other (another “clutch game”). Both teams traded blows, with Jordan Clarkson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hitting big jumpers. But a combination of a DSJ layup, and a clutch bank shot from Harrison Barnes (stats) tied the game up with six seconds left. In overtime the teams stayed close, but a Julius Randle offensive board and basket sealed, with L.A. beating the Mavericks for the first time in 15 tries, 107-101.
As mentioned in our game preview, these teams play different styles, and fill very different box scores, though their records are similar. Much of that was on display in this game. The Lakers lead the league in average distance of shot attempts at 12 feet (the league average is just over 13 feet). The Mavericks are clear on the other end (14.3 feet), with only Houston averaging deeper attempts. Both styles were apparent here, with the Lakers leading the Mavericks in points in the paint 54-30.
But on the other side the Lakers, who are 29th in the league in turnovers per game, coughed the ball up 15 times. The Mavericks, leading the league with fewest turnovers per game, had just nine.
A lottery head-to-head
As predicted in the preview, Dennis Smith Jr. and Lonzo Ball didn’t really play opposite each other until late in the game. With Yogi Ferrell in the starting lineup (who had a cold outing), DSJ was opposite Lakers shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to start. And you can be the judge as to why L.A. head coach opted to have Ball guard Yogi instead of DSJ. But late in the game, it was clear Smith wanted Ball defensively.
Even if it wasn’t a one-on-one matchup, we can at least look at their stats. Ball did the things that Ball typically does: grabbed boards and handed out rebounds, but had trouble getting any offensive rhythm (9 points, 7 assists, 7 rebounds, on 4/13 shooting). Dennis was hot in the first half, but remained very quiet after the break, finishing up with 23 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, on 8/19 shooting.
He seemed a bit more assertive to start the game, and didn’t seem to always find that gear after the break (though he found it for a brief moment inside 20 seconds to cut the Lakers lead to one). This battle will hopefully only grow from here.
An opponent’s homecoming
For many NBA fans, this month-long stretch in to February is just as exciting as game action or summer free agency. Trade rumors are constantly circulating before the deadline, and recently the Mavericks have been on the periphery of those - primarily linked to the Lakers as they try to clear even more cap space.
So it should be no surprise that Julius Randle (who is the center of these rumors) would be asked about it as he visited his hometown, before the game today:
Dallas native Julius Randle on reported trade rumors involving the Mavericks: "Obviously, I love the city of Dallas, but right now I'm an L.A. Laker" via @sportsdaydfw— Brad Townsend (@townbrad) January 13, 2018
Randle had himself a game today, playing aggressively on the block on offense, and snatching nearly every rebound that came his way. He certainly has his flaws, and it’s unclear what kind of fit he’d be in Dallas next to Harrison Barnes. But his 23 points and 15 rebounds gave the Mavs front office a nice idea of what he’s capable of.
It should be mentioned that another name floating around is Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson, who came on late today hitting big jumper after big jumper. He was big, with 19 points off the bench.
It would be surprising to see the Mavericks really make any moves, but be sure to check in at Mavs Moneyball for any and all deadline coverage.