The Dallas Mavericks might not seem like a formidable opponent based on their record, but they are a plucky bunch with a superstar rookie and they have won some games one might not have expected of them.
During the past month they split games with the Pelicans and Thunder, and came close to beating the Warriors, Nuggets and Clippers.
All that to say, last night’s win for the still-depleted Lakers was a good one.
Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 107-97 win over the Mavericks.
1. Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram showed what they can be at their best. That doesn’t mean scoring an exorbitant number of points or even securing triple doubles necessarily. They were poised, confident and aggressive. A night after making mostly the wrong decisions, the two of them made the right decisions time and again. It was a good step in the right direction.
2. A reporter started to ask Luke Walton if the Lakers had learned anything on Monday night about what they could be without LeBron James. Walton interrupted with a joke. “That we don’t need him anymore?” Walton said. “Yeah.” That, of course, wasn’t the point. But Monday’s game certainly showed them they could survive without James temporarily.
4. The Lakers stopped feeling sorry for themselves. That’s an easy thing to do with how pervasive injuries had become on their team. Losing Kyle Kuzma in the middle of their game against the Thunder hurt on the court, but it also hurt psychologically. For young players, that can be tough to get past, but they did a nice job Monday night, playing with energy and aggression regardless of their circumstances. “You know we’ve been banged up,” Tyson Chandler said. “Every team goes through this throughout the year. I’d rather it happen now than happen late in the season so we can go on our run down the stretch.”
5. Even though he struggled to score, Kuzma’s return helped. He takes up a defense’s attention and he’s more communicative than many of his teammates. That, Walton said, is a big factor in what the Lakers missed with the players they lost (besides the obvious, of course). James, Rondo and Kuzma were three of their best communicators on the court.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli