The Lakers took the floor Sunday night for pregame warmups to an electric reception from the Staples Center crowd. One key player was missing from layup lines, however. LeBron James.
James, who was listed as probable due to a reaggravated groin, sprinted out of the tunnel and straight towards center court by himself, moments after his teammates arrived. Much to the delight of the home crowd, James jumped right into layup lines and went onto play 34 minutes, posting 13 points and 13 assists as the Lakers notched a 108-95 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
“My teammates and coaching staff trust me to play the point, to run the show, and it’s my job to take care of the ball,” James said. “Just try to put guys in position to be successful, put the ball on time and on target for 3s, for lobs, for dunks, for transition. Whatever the case may be.”
With Laker legend Kobe Bryant watching from his courtside seat, the purple and gold were energized by a 15-point bench performance from Dwight Howard and 23 points from Anthony Davis. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 19.
“We knew they was on a back-to-back as well and we wanted to come out with great energy, great intensity and I feel like we did that throughout the whole game,” Caldwell-Pope said.
The Lakers held Luka Doncic, who leads Dallas in points, rebounds and assists — averaging 29.1 points per game — to 19 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
“We understood at the point of attack that Luka creates so much pressure on your defense with his scoring, with his ability to playmake,” James said.
Dorian Finney-Smith contributed 12 points for Dallas.
James created multiple highlight-worthy plays, including a scissor dribble display and fadeaway jumper in the face of Dwight Powell. James also threw a gorgeous pass to Davis, nearly the full length of the court, which was good for his 9,000th career assist after Davis slammed it.
The Lakers shot 48.7 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from 3. LA held Dallas, who holds the NBA’s best offensive rating, to 36 percent field goal shooting.
“I was really proud of our defensive effort,” Vogel said. “We just really competed, whatever defense we were in.”
The Mavericks actually outrebounded the Lakers 45-39, but fell short of LA in total assists, steals and blocks. LA scored 54 points in the paint to Dallas’32.
The Lakers ended the first quarter on a 6-0 run and led 25-19. Howard dominated the second quarter, slamming six lobs. Doncic took a scary fall just before halftime, landing backwards on his head.
After a brief moment, Doncic rose and knocked down two foul shots. The Lakers led by 11 at halftime, scoring twice as many fast break points and points in the paint. LA outscored Dallas by four in the third quarter, but lost the fourth quarter by two. Doncic cut the Laker lead to 11 with just about two minutes left, but Danny Green extended LA’s advantage with a 3 moments later.
LA (26-7 overall) ends the 2010s decade with a home victory, a decade that started with the Lakers capturing the franchise’s 16th championship in 2010. The Lake Show kicks off 2020 on New Year’s night against the 12-20 Phoenix Suns, while Dallas (21-11 overall) awaits the Oklahoma City Thunder (16-15 overall) next for a New Year’s Eve date.
Blake Atwell is a multimedia journalist and sophomore at Santa Monica College.