The Mavericks (24-18) bit the gravel hard Wednesday as their first taste of life on the road following their latest 5-2 home stand, face-palming their way through a 127-110 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers (21-21) at the Crypto.com Arena.
Dallas fell apart in the third quarter after battling a dreadful case of The Bricks for most of the game. The Mavs were scuffling offensively but able to stay within single digits before the Lakers outscored Dallas 31-18 in a pivotal seven-minute stretch in the third to seize control of the game and erase any possibility of a Mavericks’ sweep of the three-game season series between the two teams. With the loss, the Mavs will settle for a 2-1 series win over the Lakers this year.
The Mavs found some rhythm in the lane to start the game, as Dereck Lively II scored eight of Dallas’ first 10 points on a welcome combination of lobs, put-back dunks and hard-nosed buckets in a crowded lane.
The Mavericks took an early 17-10 lead on Derrick Jones Jr.’s first 3-pointer of the game, on the wing and assisted by Dončić with 6:52 left in the first. But the Lakers went what turned out to be the defining run of the first half in response. Jones left the game due to injury in the third quarter and did not return.
LA outscored the Mavs 15-4 over the next three-plus minutes and took a 25-21 lead on LeBron James’ fadeaway jumper with 3:37 left in the opening frame. James scored seven points on 3-of-5 shooting in the first, and the Mavs never wrestled the lead away from the Lakers for the rest of the game.
Dallas shot just 1-of-7 from 3-point territory in the first quarter, which did not portend good things to come. The Mavs’ poor shooting prevented Dallas from putting together a real run in response at any point against the Lakers.
Dončić got things going in earnest in the second quarter. He scored 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting and was decisive in getting to the hoop as the Lakers struggled to defend the Luka-to-Lively pick-and-roll and the Kyrie-to-Lively version, too. Dončić finished with 33 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists — his seventh triple-double of the season.
But the Lakers built their lead to 10 early in the third on five quick points from Deangelo Russell, followed by a missed step-back 3-pointer from Dončić that turned into a full-court outlet heave from James to Anthony Davis. Davis scored easily over a retreating Dončić and forced the Mavs to call a timeout down 69-59 with 8:56 left in the third.
The lifeless Mavs, who are admittedly rounding into form following a prolonged bout with injuries throughout the roster, couldn’t make a dent in the lead in the fourth. Davis finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in the win.
Dallas shot just 11-of-40 (27.5%) from 3-point land on the night, their worst performance from beyond the arc as a team since Dec. 22, when they hit just seven in a 126-97 loss to Houston. Dončić and Irving combined to go just 3-of-14 from distance, and Irving shot just 4-of-16 from the field overall in the loss.
Irving had been riding the hot hand coming into the game, averaging 31.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists in January since his return from injury.
Tim Hardaway Jr. was similarly awful Wednesday against the Lakers, shooting just 5-of-17 from the field and 0-of-7 on 3-point attempts.
Daggers from Deangelo
Deangelo Russell was living right for the Lakers all night long as the Dallas defense did everything it could to limit Davis and James from going nuclear (for all the good that did). Russell found himself open for spot-up 3-pointer after clean look from the wing after transition jumper and scored 29 points on 5-of-7 shooting from deep in the win.
Russell hit three of those during the decisive third-quarter Laker run that sealed the Mavs’ fate.
The Mavs committed five crucial turnovers during the Lakers’ extended run of dominance in the third quarter. It led to transition leaks for the Lakers, which only shined a light on Dallas’ most glaring deficiency on the defensive end — trying to survive when the opposing team gets out and runs. Dallas was completely helpless Wednesday when anyone in a yellow jersey got going with the ball and half a head of steam.
On the bright side: Dereck Lively II
Lively did everything he was asked to do on both ends Wednesday and was a bright spot for Dallas in the loss. The rookie scored 16 points and grabbed 11 boards in his second game back from an ankle injury.
Lively stayed active on defense and, though he wasn’t a big deterrent to Davis on his way to the bucket, he stayed out of foul trouble, stood his ground and was an effective lob threat in the pick-and-roll game with both Dončić and Irving at the helm.
Let’s see if the Mavs can put together a cleaner performance Friday when they visit the Golden State Warriors. Editor’s note: Friday’s game at the Golden State Warriors has been postponed as of Thursday, after the tragic death of Warriors’ assistant coach Dejan Milojevic.