Defending Luka Doncic: Lakers plan multiple options to contain Dallas playmaker

The 21-year-old Slovenian is 1-6 against L.A. so far with Mavericks
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LOS ANGELES -- Luka Doncic is a problem.

The Dallas Mavericks playmaking forward has wreaked havoc against the NBA in his first two seasons, reaching a status as one of the top players in the league.

So, when the Lakers host the Mavericks at the Staple Center in a nationally televised contest on Christmas Day, slowing down the 21-year-old from Slovania will be at the top of the priority list for Lakers head coach Frank Vogel.

However, you’ll have to wait for game time to see what Vogel’s strategy is.

“Without getting into the details of what we’re trying to do with him, it really comes down to helping enough, but not overhelping,” Vogel said. “We found out last year, if we bring too much attention to him, he’s able to pick you apart with his passing. They have one of the best 3-point shooting support systems in the league.

“So, if you bring too much, you’re in trouble. And if you leave him isolated too much and don’t bring enough help, he’s averaging 29 (points per game) and is capable of putting 40 up on you. So, it’s just making sure that you’re finding that balance.”

The Lakers have done a decent job against Doncic. He’s averaging 21 points, eight rebounds and 7.6 assists a contest in seven games against L.A. The Lakers are 6-1 in those contests.

Doncic averaged 29 points, 9.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists last season, earning a spot in the NBA All-Star game. He faces off against the player he looked up to working on his game in Europe in LeBron James.

Both are pass-first playmakers that see the floor well and rise to the occasion in clutch situations at the end of games.

“It’s the game between the game -- guys that can make plays before you see them,” James said, when asked what he admires most about elite players like Doncic. “It’s not about actually scoring the ball. It’s about passes and reads throughout the course of a game where even their particular teammate didn’t see it coming to them, or a defender didn’t see it.

“So, those are plays that kind of get me in that ‘wow’ moment.”

Both teams also are looking for the first win of the season, with the Lakers losing to the crosstown Los Angeles Clippers in their season opener last week, while Dallas fell to the Phoenix Suns 106-102 on Wednesday.

Los Angeles will appear in a Christmas Day matchup for the 22nd consecutive year and 47th all-time in franchise history. The Lakers have the most Christmas Day wins among NBA franchises (23-23).

The assumption is Vogel will put his best defender, Anthony Davis, on Doncic. But expect others to spend some time on Doncic as well, including Wes Matthews, Kyle Kuzma and perhaps James.

“We’ll have multiple defenders on him, we’ll just leave it at that,” Vogel said.