The Los Angeles Lakers appeared to fall victim to a ring-ceremony hangover on opening night in a listless loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
There was no letdown on Friday.
Sporting their throwback baby blues, the defending champs took on the Western Conference hopeful Dallas Mavericks in a primetime Christmas matchup. They looked very much like a team intent on hanging another banner in a 138-115 win.
2 MVP candidates better than 1
In a matchup featuring a bevy of MVP candidates, the Lakers flexed the edge they’ll have almost every night with big games from their pair of hardware contenders LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Luka Doncic tried to keep pace. But the MVP favorite couldn’t muster enough to threaten the Lakers as his top running mate Kristaps Porzingis watched injured from the bench.
Lakers blank Mavericks in second-chance points
Porzingis’ size was sorely missed as the Lakers dominated the boards with a 53-27 rebounding advantage. The Mavericks managed just three offensive rebounds as the Lakers held an astounding 35-0 edge in second-chance points.
Los Angeles rode their dominance on the glass to a double-digit lead for almost the entire second half before blowing things open in the game’s final minutes. In the process, James and Davis picked up where they left off in October as the top tandem in the NBA bubble.
LeBron, AD in midseason form
Davis led all scorers with an efficient 28 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field including three 3-pointers. He added eight assists, five rebounds and two steals. James flirted with a triple-double, tallying 22 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. He continued to flash the long-range marksmanship he’s developed late in his career, matching Davis’ three triples.
He borrowed a page out of the Doncic playbook to hit one over his MVP rival late in the game.
Meanwhile, Clippers transplant and reigning Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell thrived in his bench role with 22 points and seven rebounds while shooting 10 of 13 from the field.
Is Doncic in game shape?
Doncic, as usual, led the Mavericks with 27 points, seven rebounds and four assists. But he fell short of the herculean effort he’s put up so many times in big games and didn’t have a chance to player closer in this one. He also sat for nearly half of the fourth quarter, which raises more questions about his conditioning to start the new season. By the time he returned midway through the quarter, the Lakers led by 14.
The Mavericks aren’t slated to face the Lakers again until the yet-to-be-scheduled second half of the season. By then, barring setbacks, Porzingis should be fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered in the bubble. And any questions about Doncic’s game shape should be long gone.
If that’s the case, the next matchup should provide a truer test of where the Mavericks stand against the defending champions.
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