For the third time this season, Luka Doncic and LeBron James were set to face-off and given the high standards the duo have set for themselves, this contest fell slightly short of the previous ones.
Doncic had probably his first real off-game of the season while James played facilitator all game to ensure the Lakers win in Los Angeles on the second night of a back-to-back.
Here are the biggest takeaways from a game that brought Lakers' legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter to the courtside seats in the Staples Center:
🐍 Mamba 🤝 LBJ 👑 pic.twitter.com/7PWfQcunNF- NBA (@NBA) December 30, 2019
James focuses on win
The league-leader in assists, James dished out 13 in this one. Having an off-shooting game from the field (3-10 FG's), he made sure to help the team in every other way possible - committing just two of the team's 16 turnovers and playing the role of facilitator all through the game.
For only the 12th time in his career, the King dished out more assists than his field-goal attempts and he's unbeaten when he does so.
Took 10 shots and dished out 13 assists tonight.- StatMuse (@statmuse) December 30, 2019
En route to his 13 dimes, James also recorded 9,000th career assist during the game, only becoming the 9th player to reach that landmark:
LBJ drops his 9⃣0⃣0⃣0⃣th-career dime‼️- NBA (@NBA) December 30, 2019
📺: ESPN pic.twitter.com/Pfl4XGcVLR
In the process, he made some history:
In a league of his own 🤯 pic.twitter.com/XoRANq6GDv- Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 30, 2019
One of Doncic's rare off-games
In 30 minutes, Doncic finished with 19 points, seven assists, four rebounds, and two steals on 5-of-14 shooting from the field (0-6 3P) and was a -14 when on the floor.
So, it's safe to say, Doncic's 100th career game didn't go as planned.
Luka Dončić just completed his 100th career game. In those 100 games, he has recorded 2,332 points, 827 rebounds and 681 assists.- Mavs PR (@MavsPR) December 30, 2019
Dončić joins Oscar Robertson as the only players in @NBA history to post 2,000+ pts, 750+ rebs and 500+ assists in their first 100 career games. pic.twitter.com/3QNS9OBDMo
For a player, who had an NBA record 20 consecutive games (within the first 24 games of the season) with at least 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists, you would certainly expect him to have at least those numbers but he didn't.
Not to mention, his off-shooting night. It is just his second game this season where he has failed to knock down a 3-pointer and just the third game this season where his +/- was a double-digit negative while on the floor.
Having said that, he did have a nasty fall in the second quarter and that could have played a factor.
Update on Tim Hardaway Jr.
Since he was inserted into the starting line-up, over the last 18 games, Tim Hardaway Jr. was averaging 16.9 points on 46.7% shooting from the field and 43.8% from beyond the arc.
In this one, he only played six minutes after he pulled his left hamstring in the first quarter. He was ruled out of the game by the end of the quarter.
"Too early to tell right now," Hardaway Jr. said on his availability for the Mavericks' next game. "I've walking fine. I didn't year anything pop."
📹 @T_HardJR gives an update on his status moving forward #MFFL pic.twitter.com/qbsFX8jRkJ- Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) December 30, 2019
Lakers dominate the paint & set to stabilize
Through the first 27 games of this season, the Lakers had got off to their best start in over a decade with a 24-3 record. However, after that, they lost four straight capped off by the Christmas Day loss to their crosstown rivals where they gave up a 17-point lead.
However, by sweeping this back-to-back against the Blazers and Mavericks, they have stabilized.
In both games of this back-to-back, the Lakers have dominated the paint, a part of the floor where they rank 2nd in the league. In this one, they outscored the Mavericks by 22 (54-32) after outscoring the Blazers by 20 (60-40) a day earlier.
After these two wins, the Lakers have a chance to continue doing so in the next four games of their 5-game homestand. They compete in very winnable games against the Phoenix Suns (lost 8 of last 9), the New Orleans (11-23 = 2nd worst record in the West), the Detroit Pistons (lost 6 of last 7), and the New York Knicks (9-24 = 3rd worst record in the league).