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.