The beleaguered Dallas Mavericks (15-8) took what looked like a scheduled loss against the Los Angeles Lakers (14-10) Tuesday and made a batch of chicken salad at the American Airlines Center. The 127-125 win is their second against the newly minted League Champion Lakers this year, and it might be the Mavericks most impressive of the young season.
Among other things, the win begs the question, aren’t your little Dallas Mavericks the real champions at the end of the day? A 10-3 run late in the fourth quarter keyed by Dante Exum and Tim Hardaway Jr. put the game just out of LA’s reach. A signature lob from Luka Dončić to rookie sensation Dereck Lively II for a highlight slam with 2:30 left to play was the exclamation mark.
Without Kyrie Irving, Derrick Jones Jr., Josh Green and Maxi Kleber, who were all out due to injury, Dončić went into hero mode once again. It never gets old, does it?
It was unfortunate that Irving showed up to the arena on crutches and wearing a boot after sustaining a heel contusion against the Portland Trail Blazers. Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said in the pregame that Irving was “feeling better,” for what that’s worth.
Dončić and Hardaway combined for 65 points in the win, which extends Dallas’ dub streak to four games. It was Dončić’s eighth straight game with 30 or more points. Dončić led the Mavs with 33 points, 17 assists and six rebounds, and Hardaway had 32 on five made 3-pointers. Dončić has piled up 68 points, 14 rebounds, 23 assists and two technical fouls in 87 minutes in the team’s last two games on a back-to-back set.
Dante Exum (26 points, 7-of-9 from 3-point territory) and Grant Williams (19 points, 5-of-7 on 3-pointers) were also huge in the win.
The Mavs outscored the Lakers by 21 points at the 3-point line in the win and survived dueling 30-plus point performances from LeBron James and Anthony Davis in what went from a first-half blowout to the clutchest of all the Mavs’ clutch wins this year down the stretch.
They’re on fire
The Mavericks shot a ridiculous 21-of-43 as a team from 3-point territory in the win, and they needed every one of them after giving up the 15-point lead they farmed in the second quarter. Both teams were shooting it well from deep in the first half, but even though the Lakers were efficient, at 7-of-12, Dallas still outscored them from the 3-point line by 15 in the first two quarters by shooting the lights out at 12-of-22 for the half.
Dallas came into the game with eight players hitting at least 35% on their 3-point attempts this year, the most of any team in the NBA.
Weathering the third-quarter storm
James and Davis were devastating in the third quarter, when the Lakers outscored the Mavericks 34-22 to take a 95-93 lead into the fourth. Mavs fans everywhere had to wonder whether the triage unit that has become the Dallas roster had anything left in the tank.
James finished with 33 points, nine boards and eight assists, while Davis led all scorers with 37 points and 11 rebounds in the loss.
After taking a 15-point lead, 76-61, on two Dončić free throws early in the third, James and the Lake Show started to wake up. Two James 3-pointers, a hook shot in the lane from Davis and five minutes later, the Dallas lead had been whittled down to five, at 83-78 midway through the frame.
A Taurean Prince 3-pointer at the wing followed by a long 2-point jumper and an unlikely Davis 3-pointer in the final possession of the third put the Lakers in front heading into the fourth. It was just Davis’ fourth made 3-pointer of the season.
But Williams and Exum would simply not be denied down the stretch. Exum poured in corner 3-ball after corner 3-ball — 17 of his season-high 26 points came in the fourth. The Laker defense dared Exum to continue torching them, and Exum obliged.
The Law Firm
On the Mavericks’ current four-game win streak, role players all over the roster have taken their turn stepping up to fill holes in the lineup vacated by injuries. Tuesday it was the Law Firm of Hardaway, Exum and Williams, who combined for 77 points and hit 17 of the team’s 21 3-pointers in the win. They couldn’t miss at times. It was something to behold.
Exum has been a constant in the Mavericks’ last three games, averaging more than 22 points, five rebounds and four assists as his minutes have increased. It may be time to start thinking about working Exum into the starting lineup more consistently even after the roster is back to full strength.
Seth Curry, another key member of the supporting cast who has played some key minutes in this four-game win streak, did not return to the game in the second half due to ankle soreness. It will be interesting to see who is able to come back from injury and who else may have to miss the Mavs’ next game, Thursday at home against the Timberwolves.