DALLAS - With Kristaps Porzingis sidelined for the Dallas Mavericks, the Los Angeles Lakers' top priority was to pressure Luka Doncic to throw him off his game. The strategy failed in the end as the Mavs came out on top with 108-93 being the final score.
I’m very comfortable being double-teamed,'' Doncic said.
Surely true, but it was difficult for the Mavericks to get into much a rhythm offensively in the opening half. Doncic was being picked up full-court and was often hard double-teamed along the sidelines when running pick-and-rolls.
Dallas struggled with countering the Lakers' aggressive defensive strategy due to a combination of factors. Between going 4-of-15 (26.7%) from beyond the arc and giving up 13 points off turnovers on 10 giveaways, they faced legitimate disadvantages.
Meanwhile, the Lakers had little issues getting what they wanted offensively. Los Angeles finished with 58 points in the opening half and held a 12 point advantage as a result. They received double-figure scoring from Anthony Davis (12), Dennis Schroder (12), and Ben McLemore (12) during this stretch.
The Mavericks' offense adjusted in the second half using a variety of strategies - primarily by using more stagger screens to begin possessions. Doncic gave the ball up earlier when the double-team arrived but, in general, made it a point to serve more as a decoy to facilitate for teammates.
“At halftime, we talked about a couple of adjustments, but the messaging from everyone in there was ‘Stay the course,’ " Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said.
With Dallas' adjustments, it was up to the rim roller and relief options in the corners to execute and they managed to get it done. Two players who benefited significantly from this included Dwight Powell (a season-high 25) and Dorian Finney-Smith (21), who combined for 46 points on the night.
Dallas managed to outscore the Lakers by a 12-point margin in the third period and tied the game up 79-79 entering the fourth quarter. With Doncic on the sidelines to begin the final frame, the Mavericks' offense sputtered. Dallas trailed 87-83 when their superstar checked back into the game at the 7:44 mark.
The Lakers continued using their aggressive defensive approach in an attempt to neutralize Doncic down the stretch. The Mavericks handled it quite well and took an 89-87 lead with 5:41 left to play - prompting Los Angeles to call timeout.
Los Angeles made a clear effort to run their offense through Anthony Davis down the stretch and often came up empty. (Part of the success: the "Defensive Belt''-winning work of playing-hurt Maxi Kleber.) The Mavericks continued to build on their advantage with Doncic operating masterful out of high screen-and-roll situations.
Dallas put the game on ice when JJ Redick drilled a catch-and-shoot jumpers from the corner and Doncic followed that up by converting on a step-back all the way from Frisco.
The Mavericks gained a double-figure advantage with 2:17 remaining on the game clock.
The Lakers never managed to come within single-digits from that point on. Sticking with such an aggressive defensive strategy against Doncic throughout the whole second half proved to be a costly choice for Los Angeles as Dallas figured it out.
The two-man game between Doncic and Powell was thriving in the second half of this game, in particular. During this stretch, Powell scored 21 points while Doncic recorded 10 assists. Dallas also went 9-of-15 (60.0%) from deep with JJ Redick, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Maxi Kleber converting on a pair of made three-pointers.
On the night, Doncic struggled to score as he finished with 18 points by going 6-of-15 (40.0%) from the floor and 2-of-6 (33.3%) from deep. He embraced the role of being the lead facilitator as he racked up 13 assists despite all of the Lakers' ball pressure.
By achieving the victory, the Mavericks now hold a one-game lead over the Portland Trail Blazers for the sixth seed in the Western Conference. Dallas also gained the tie-breaker with the Lakers and trail only by 1.5 games in the standings for the fifth spot.
Next up, the Mavericks will take on the Sacramento Kings at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. And while the team will board the plane on Sunday, Carlisle said of the psyche, “We’re staying right here. It’s right here and right now. I think our guys understand what’s at stake.''