LOS ANGELES — Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) Lakers now 4-0 on the second night of back-to-backs, thanks to win against Mavericks. Los Angeles can thank its defense for its 26th win of the season.
Dallas came into Staples Center with the best offense in the NBA and statistically one of the best offenses in NBA history — an offensive rating of 115.3 is better than the Durant/Curry Warriors or the Showtime Lakers or any other team over the course of a season.
The Lakers held them to less than a point per possession — a 94.1 offensive rating.
That led to a comfortable 108-95 win for Los Angeles Sunday night, making the Lakers 4-0 on the second night of a back-to-backs this season. The reason for the record is their defense — the Lakers have a 98.5 defensive rating in those games (104.8 is their rating for the season, eighth-best in the league).
“I was proud of our defensive effort and competitive spirit,” Frank Vogel said after the game. “I thought we just competed whatever defense we were in.”
The Lakers did a good job containing Luka Doncic — who still had 19 points on 5-of-14 shooting — but LeBron James added there was a real focus on the Dallas bench.
“We know not only the season that Luka’s having, but they’ve been successful because of their bench as well,” LeBron said. “Their bench gives them so much of a push. Luka comes out, [Kristaps Porzingis] comes out, their starters come out and their bench seems to rise to the occasion.”
Dallas still had 42 points off the bench, which is right at their season average of 42.8 per game (fifth-best in the league). However, the Mavericks bench could not take over the game the way they have in the past, and the Lakers were able to maintain a comfortable lead with their bench (who scored 46 on the night).
What does the 4-0 back-to-back record tell us about the Lakers? Nothing, frankly. It’s an incredibly small sample size and it’s not predictive because there are no back-to-backs in the playoffs. It’s just an interesting little fact.
Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 23, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 19 off the bench.
This game happened the day before LeBron turns 35, and he was reflective talking about reaching that milestone.
“When you grow up in the inner city, around a lot of things you don’t want your kids to see, to be able to get to this point, an age where the statistics are stacked up against you, that’s a blessing,” LeBron said. “It’s more of a blessing to be able to do what I love to do every day, and be able to let my family reap the benefits of that.”
Does he have any birthday wishes?
“I don’t really have birthday wishes. I’m not a birthday wish guy,” he said.
“Yea, I’m going to have one of those,” LeBron laughed. “That’s not a wish, I don’t wish to have one of those, because I’ve got to pay for it. I got to pay for my own damn birthday party… this one is going to be mild. Forty, that’s going to be a party.
2) LeBron James logs 9,000th career assist. LeBron James has taken on the point guard/playmaking duties with the Lakers this season and having a career-best year in assists, averaging a league-leading 10.8 per game.
That made it fitting he picked up his 9,000th career assist Sunday night on a look-ahead to his favorite target, Anthony Davis.
LBJ drops his 9⃣0⃣0⃣0⃣th-career dime‼️
📺: ESPN pic.twitter.com/Pfl4XGcVLR
— NBA (@NBA) December 30, 2019
LeBron is ninth on the all-time assist list and will move up to eighth in the coming weeks when he moves past Isaiah Thomas.
“It’s something that was instilled in me when I first picked up a basketball,” LeBron said of his love of playmaking and assists. “Little league coach Frank Walker always talked about it. It’s the greatest part of basketball to be able to see the ball move from side to side, to be able to attract the defense and get your teammates an open shot. When I was a little kid, I was somewhat better than some of my teammates, it was much more of a greater reward to see some of the teammates who can’t dribble or can’t score for themselves, to get them an open look…
“I knew that was the way I wanted to play. Been that way all my life.”
And he’s been one of the best at it his entire career.
3) Lonzo Ball’s seven threes, near triple-double, sparks 41-19 fourth quarter for Pelicans, who beat very shorthanded Rockets. James Harden was out with a sprained toe. Russell Westbrook had the night off for load management. Clint Capela is sidelined with a right shoulder issue.
That made it Lonzo Ball’s night — 27 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, and 7-of-12 from three — in a 127-112 Pelicans win.
Ball said postgame he knew it would take time for his new shot form to pay off, but that he’s starting to feel more comfortable with it. With him in a contract year, if Ball can find that shot consistently the second half of the season, his value — and his contract size — will go up.
E’Twaun Moore scored 14 of his 25 in the fourth quarter to help the Pelicans dominate that quarter. New Orleans has looked much better with Derrick Favors in the lineup and healthy, they have won four in a row and 5-of-6. Keep playing this way, get Zion Williamson back in the next month, and things will start to look a lot sunnier in the Big Easy.Follow @basketballtalk