Dallas Mavericks held Los Angeles Lakers at Christmas, 124-115

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The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Los Angeles Lakers at home on Christmas Day, winning 124-115. The superstar between Luka Doncic and LeBron James lived up to the billing, with Doncic scoring 32 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out nine assists. James shot 38 to go along with six rebounds and five assists in the loss. Christian Wood was also big for Dallas, scoring 30, grabbing eight rebounds and seven assists.

Things went well in LA early on, with LeBron James pressing on after Dallas mistakes and the Mavericks unable to connect on open looks. The Lakers sent variations of double-teams on Luka Doncic and he couldn’t make his first shot until around four minutes into the quarter. Despite being down by as many as 14 in the first frame, the Mavericks got back into the game, cutting their lead to four. But a late stop by the Dallas offense combined with the Laker’s free throws allowed Los Angeles to take a 28-21 lead after 12 minutes of action.

With Luka Doncic on the bench, the Dallas unit struggled to defend and the Lakers built a double-digit lead again. Offensively, Dallas continued to go up from three, but failed to hit the wide side of a barn. LeBron James continually punished any Dallas quarterback he put in front of him during the fourth and this allowed the Lakers to take a 54-43 lead at halftime.

A rush of three by Dallas to open the third quarter quickly closed the gap to the Mavericks and forced a Los Angeles timeout. The Maverick offense kept coming and Dallas took the lead halfway through the quarter via a Hardaway three out of a drive and plate. The three-way reign continued across the board, with Dallas shooting 9 of 12. That deluge broke the curse elsewhere as the Mavericks began scoring inside the bracket as well, which led to them scoring 51 points in the third quarter. Dallas led 94-75 after three periods.

After Dallas’ historic third quarter, the Lakers responded by cutting Maverick’s lead to 10 in just 88 seconds. The Mavericks responded several times throughout the quarter, but James and the Lakers just kept coming. Serious trouble arose in Dallas as well, with Luka Doncic hitting five and Dwight Powell missing with just over five minutes left. But Los Angeles just didn’t have enough juice to contain a Dallas offense that, once erupted, was impossible to contain with its limited defensive options. The Mavericks won on Christmas Day 124-115 and improved to 18-16 on the season.

When Mavericks Hit Open Shots, Dallas Has a Good Chance to Win

Last year, just before the start of the playoffs, Josh Bowe tweeted something that had been true for some time but had never been stated so succinctly before:

It’s still true and will probably be true as long as Luka Doncic is with the Mavericks. In the first half, Dallas players received a variety of open stares and failed to connect. In the third quarter, as we all saw, the ball moved quickly and Spencer Dinwiddie, Tim Hardaway Jr., Reggie Bullock and Christian Wood made the defense pay for leaving them open.

Duplicating Luka Doncic must have diminishing returns

At halftime, ESPN’s Michael Wilbon noted that Luka Doncic had seen double-teams on 18 possessions in that first half. The Mavericks were unable to make the Lakers pay and lost as a direct result. The point mentioned above discussed non-Luka players connecting on open shots and those shots are a direct result of Doncic having doubled.

Doncic will make the right basketball play in almost every situation when he’s trapped. And when teams opt to double down on Doncic early on, I feel good about Luka eventually figuring out how to exploit gaps in defensive coverage. He sees a higher percentage of double teams per game than any other player (he may actually see more, but I don’t have access to the data right now). It’s the only defensive scheme the teams have seen work simply because of the offensive limitations of other Dallas players. But give Luka enough looks for something, he’ll figure out the way to get over it.

Christian Wood meets America

As an undrafted player, Christian Wood was probably only familiar to the most regular basketball fans. After all, he played on seven teams in his NBA career. However, anyone who has watched his various YouTube highlight videos has seen a player with totally tempting highlights. With what he’s capable of on offense, he looks a lot like an All-Star, he’s very talented.

But he wasn’t able to get him into a decent team. Until now.

This 30-point, eight-rebound, seven-assist, four-steal, and two-block performance in a nationally televised Christmas game was quite the introduction for many casual NBA fans. His insertion into the starting line-up gave the boost that many of us have been demanding since those early days of training camp. Now, it’s important to point out that their solid game has accompanied the Mavericks facing a weak point in the calendar. But with Dallas struggling to keep its head above water during an injury-heavy period, its strong game is needed. Hopefully, the connection he and Doncic have can be developed as the Mavericks work through the season.

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