Luka Doncic, Dallas bench blows up Lakers’ plan, end’s L.A.’s 10-game win streak

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LOS ANGELES — The Lakers had a plan.

To open the game, the Lakers blitzed Luka Doncic every time he came off a pick, trying to force the ball out of his hands. JaVale McGee was showing out hard and cutting off lanes. If Doncic got past him and to the rim, Anthony Davis would swoop in looking for a block.

LeBron James came out Sunday like a great player challenged by a young upstart — LeBron was active, physical, all over the court and disrupting Doncic’s passing lanes at every turn. LeBron had three early steals and got into the body of Kristaps Porzingis to force one of them.

The Mavs were flustered and the Lakers led 15-5 early and Staples Center was rocking with fans expecting an 11th win in a row.

Then the Dallas bench came in and settled things down, playing so well that Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle went with all-bench lineups for an extended period. At the same time, the Lakers’ bench got away from what worked, then let some calls they didn’t like get into their head.

By halftime, LeBron was calling a huddle on the court to cuss at his teammates about the effort level.

Then Doncic took over the third quarter — 16 points, four rebounds, and five assists in those 12 minutes alone — and the Mavericks pulled away. In the fourth, he was icing the win with a step-back three over his idol LeBron.

Dallas ended up with a comfortable 114-100 win that ended the Lakers’ 10-game win streak.

Anthony Davis finished with 27 points (he had 20 in the first half) and LeBron had 25.

Doncic finished with 27 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. It was another impressive outing for the 20-year-old, one where he kept his head after a rough start.

“It was awful, awful for me,” Doncic said of his 2-9 first-half shooting performance. “In the second half I felt better, kept attacking, trusted my shot.”

“[Doncic] made a really good adjustment in the second quarter, he started moving the ball quickly then getting the ball back, and that put him in some positions that were a little harder to predict for the defense,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “The second half was more of the same…

“He hit a couple of hellacious shots that only a handful of people in the world can hit,” Carlisle added.

However, for Dallas this win was more about the bench. Delon Wright had 17 points and Justin Jackson 15, and the pair combined to knock down six threes. Dallas’ bench moved the ball well, moved into open spaces, and took threes.

A lot of threes. Dallas as a team took 49 threes, hitting 17 of them (34.7 percent). The Lakers were 7-of-27 from three (25.9 percent) and that math is hard to make up.

While the Lakers had won 10 in a row, they had done much of that against a softer part of the schedule. They had developed a few bad habits, had some sloppy stretches and dug themselves holes, but against weaker teams Los Angeles could bounce back. Against Dallas, and the better teams the Lakers will see in December, the Lakers can’t get behind like that and expect to be able to flip the switch.

“When the better teams come into this building, or we play them on the road, the margin for error is very slim,” Danny Green said. “You can’t dig yourself a hole and think you’ll come back against those better teams. Especially when they’re a high-powered offense like Dallas.”

Now the Lakers head out on the road to Denver and Utah, two outstanding teams that play well at home. The Lakers did what they had to do the past few weeks, but a bigger test is coming in December (the Lakers have the toughest schedule in the league for the coming month).

Now they need to stick with their plans for a full 48 minutes.

Former Celtic Guerschon Yabusele fined for not looking at flag during Chinese national anthem

Guerschon Yabusele
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Guerschon Yabusele washed out with the Celtics.

So, now the former first-rounder is playing in China – and running into trouble.

The Chinese Basketball Association fined him for not looking at the flag during the national anthem:

Though Yabusele is French, this comes amid heightened tension between the NBA and China. Most Americans will probably find it ridiculous that looking at the flag during the national anthem is required in authoritarian China.

Meanwhile, let’s ostracize anyone who dares not to stand for the Star Spangled Banner.

Portland reportedly applies for disabled player exception after Rodney Hood injury

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Rodney Hood‘s season coming to an end because of a ruptured Achilles was a real blow to Portland — he had become a critical part of their rotation. That has led to a lot of speculation about already shorthanded Portland jumping into the trade market soon looking for someone to absorb those minutes, as well as hitting the buyout market hard next February.

Portland is now looking for a little more money to spend to bring someone in, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The “disabled player exemption” allows a team over some space to go after a replacement for a player lost due to injury. This is a fairly standard process and likely will be approved. Portland can use that money on a free agent (Iman Shumpert is available again) or someone bought out by another team.

Portland is 10-16 on the season, set back in part due to injuries to the front line. The Blazers knew Jusuf Nurkic would miss most of the season, and he was vital to them, but they were counting on Zach Collins to step up and absorb those minutes. Then he needed shoulder surgery. Portland eventually turned to Carmelo Anthony to help along the frontline, and he has performed well enough for them to guarantee his contract for the season.

Portland is going to be active, both looking at free agents and on the trade market. Just don’t expect a Kevin Love deal (he may want it but his contract makes that nearly impossible).

Rumor: Dwight Howard and Chris Paul stated intent to join Mavericks until Howard backed out

Chris Paul and Dwight Howard
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The Mavericks went from winning the 2011 NBA championship to missing the playoffs within two years.

Somewhat by choice.

Of course, they wanted to remain competitive. But they were willing to accept a lower floor to maintain financial flexibility. They let key players – most notably Tyson Chandler – leave in order to chase bigger stars.

Dallas was repeatedly linked to Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, who could’ve become free agents in 2012 but opted in. They finally hit the market in 2013, but once again spurned the Mavericks. Paul re-signed with the Clippers, and Howard left the Lakers for the Rockets.

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

I really think that they, Chris and Dwight, basically wink, wink said they were going to Dallas, from what I’ve heard, and that Dwight backed out.

Word on the street. But we hear a lot of stories. That’s one story I’ve heard.

This is the peril of making arrangements in underground free agency. They’re unbinding. That was especially true with Howard, who waffled through the Dwightmare with the Magic. The Mavericks might have proceeded in the smartest way, but it backfired. Dallas is only now re-emerging upward with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.

This also creates a fun “what if?” How good would Dallas have been? Paul remained elite, but Howard and Dirk Nowitzki were slipping. Where would the Clippers have gone with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan but without Paul? Would they still have held the credibility required to lure Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last summer? Where would Houston have turned without Howard as the star to pair with James Harden?

Serge Ibaka says he nearly goaltended Kawhi Leonard’s iconic shot: ‘I would’ve retired’

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Kawhi Leonard hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history – a buzzer-beater that bounced, bounced, bounced, bounced in during Game 7 of last year’s second-round Raptors-76ers series and propelled Toronto toward an eventual title.

Raptors forward Serge Ibaka, via Josh Lewenberg of TSN:

“I didn’t think it was going in. I was under the basket trying to go for the offensive rebound. The ball was bouncing and one time I was so close to going [for it]. Thank God I didn’t because it could have been goaltending. That would’ve been bad. I would’ve retired. If that had happened I would have retired.”

In hindsight, that would’ve been catastrophic. It would have been been bad at the time, too – but only so bad.

The Bucks, Toronto’s opponent in the Eastern Conference finals, looked better than the Raptors. The Western Conference-winning Warriors were widely viewed as invincible. Few would have thought Ibaka’s goaltend would’ve cost Toronto a championship.

Thankfully for him and the Raptors, we now know better.