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3 thoughts from a gritty Mavericks win over the Lakers, 115-110

The Mavericks pulled out an up and down game.

Los Angeles Lakers v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Lakers 115-110. Despite LeBron James sitting out with an ankle injury and Anthony Davis playing limited minutes returning from a two month absence due to a calf strain, the game still had an almost playoff atmosphere. Sometimes all it takes is being the late night national TV game to do that.

Luka Doncic led all scorers with 30 points, and almost had a triple-double, adding nine rebounds and eight assists. Kentavius Caldwell-Pope led the Lakers in scoring, putting up 29 points on 6-of-12 shooting from deep.

The Mavericks started off slow, which lately isn’t so much a habit as it is a standard operating procedure. But they eventually found their energy and took the lead off a balanced offensive attack. No Dallas player really dominated in the first. Everyone just took what the defense gave them, and the Mavericks ended up leading 31-25 to end the quarter. That’s significant, because Dallas is 20-0 when leading after the opening quarter.

The Mavericks continued to just grind away at the Lakers, never making a big run, but still ending up extending their lead to 11 points by halftime. It helped that the Lakers only shot 2-of-10 from behind the arc in the first half. It also didn’t hurt that Davis came out rusty in his return, shooting 2-for-10 from the floor.

The Lakers came out on fire in the second half, opening the third quarter on an 11-0 run. But the Mavericks, one of the streakiest teams I’ve ever seen in the NBA, answered right back with a 10-0 run. Then Dennis Schroder took over, scoring 14 of his 25 points in the third quarter. The Lakers chipped away at the Mavericks’ lead, eventually taking a four point lead of their own late in the quarter. It didn’t help that Kristaps Porzingis twisted his ankle toward the end of the third and had to leave the game and not return. But Dallas was able to push back and take a 94-90 edge into the fourth.

A grimy game took an even rougher turn in the final quarter and the fourth turned into a bit of a scuffle. Neither team looked sharp, and Doncic was able to execute plays just enough down the stretch to guide the Mavericks to a win. Dallas only scored 21 points in the final quarter, but they held the Lakers to only 20. The recently leaky Dallas defense came through.

It wasn’t the most inspiring win against a Lakers squad short their best player and limiting the court time of their second best player, but the Mavericks aren’t in a position to quibble over wins. Here are three thoughts from a hard-fought win:

The Mavericks got to the line plenty.

Dallas shot more than twice as many free throws as the Lakers. It could have been more. The Lakers decided to foul the Mavericks all game and dare the referees to call fouls. For the most part it worked. The game was messy and neither team ever really gained a rhythm outside of the beginning of the second half. Yet again, the Mavericks struggled at the line, only hitting 72% of their free throws. But they hit 26-of-36, as opposed to the Lakers going 14-of-17.

A balanced attack by the Mavericks was refreshing.

All five starters for the Mavericks scored in double figures, and Willie Cauley-Stein chipped in 11 points from the bench. Porzingis was the second leading scorer with 19. Tim Hardaway Jr. has been struggling lately, but still put up eight points. Jalen Brunson and JJ Redick both scored seven. Dorian Finney-Smith continued his hot April shooting, scoring 10 points and hitting 2-of-3 from three. Anytime the Mavericks can win without Doncic having to do something superhuman is a positive, even though Doncic still scored 30. Teams are going to leave the Mavericks’ role players open from deep, and if they can hit shots, Dallas usually wins.

Luka Doncic is still experimenting with being a playmaker early.

Doncic didn’t take a shot in the first quarter. He almost ended up with a 30 point triple-double, so it doesn’t matter, but it continues a strange trend of early passivity that’s been evident the last week or so. It would be something interesting to ask him about, but right now media availability is limited and I understand the beat guys not wanting to waste their one question on a topic that might not elicit a very quotable answer. It’s just intriguing that a player as aggressive as Doncic can go a quarter without a shot, or sometimes a half with only four shots.

Here’s the postgame podcast, Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you can’t see the embed below “More from Mavs Moneyball”, click here. And if you haven’t yet, subscribe by searching “Mavs Moneyball podcast” into your favorite podcast app.