On a night when the Lakers struggled from three-point range, their most important attempt was perfect.
LeBron James drove toward the basket with the Lakers down three, just seconds remaining in Friday’s fourth quarter. He drew two Dallas defenders to him. That left one man standing in the corner right in front of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
Green had failed at this exact task more than once in his career. He’d missed a few shots before this one on Friday night, too. But Dwight Howard had set a screen to get him open, and James had waited until he reached the corner. And as Mavericks guard Seth Curry leaped at him, all of his experience meant he knew exactly what to do next.
“You can change the whole game with one shot,” Green said.
It swished through the net and the game went to overtime, where the Lakers notched their toughest win so far this season.
The Lakers beat the Mavericks 119-110, improving to 4-1 with their fourth straight victory. James and Dallas star Luka Doncic both notched triple-doubles, with James racking up 39 points, 16 assists and 12 rebounds, and Doncic scoring 31 points with 15 assists and 13 rebounds.
Anthony Davis scored 31 points with eight rebounds, and Kyle Kuzma added nine in 19 minutes in his season debut. The Lakers capitalized on 23 Mavericks turnovers for 30 points and overcame early shooting and rebounding struggles that left them in double-digit holes against a talented young Dallas team.
“Offensively we just couldn’t make a shot to start the game,” James said. “… But the most important thing, we continued to defend. That’s what’s always going to keep us in the game.”
The Lakers struck first, with an alley oop from James to Davis, but then Dallas went on an 11-0 run. They trailed by as many as 14 in the first quarter, but cut the Mavericks’ lead to five by the end.
One problem for the Lakers was that they shot only 30.4% in the first quarter. While the Lakers improved in the second quarter, their rebounding sagged. The Mavericks out-rebounded the Lakers 17-4 in the quarter en route to a 58-48 halftime lead.
“No one panicked,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Everybody just stayed the course. Stuck to what we do, what we know works.”
James orchestrated a third-quarter comeback, guiding the Lakers on a 10-0 run to start the period. He attempted five three-pointers and made three of them in the early minutes, and the Lakers got their first lead, at 63-61, since the score was 2-0.
But that effort couldn’t stop the next Mavericks push. After James headed to the bench, Dallas widened its lead once more. With the help of three three-pointers in the final 2:26 of the third, Dallas entered the fourth quarter leading by nine.
Green hit a three-pointer with 5:08 left in the game to tie it at 92. A two-handed, running dunk by James a minute later gave the Lakers a 96-94 lead.
James stormed back toward the Lakers’ basket as the Mavericks called a timeout. He and Davis glared into each other’s eyes before pounding their chests together.
Dallas led by two with 31 seconds left, but with a chance to ice the game, center Dwight Powell missed one of two from the line. That left the door open for the Lakers, who had a play they hoped would work
Howard set a screen and, he admitted, got away with a hold on Curry as James drove to the basket.
“I had every thought in mind of they were going to try to foul on the inbounds, they would try to foul on the drive,” James said. “I’m reading and reacting to the defense. When I seen Danny get a clean look, I just tried to put it on time, on target.”
The pass was low, but James said Green likes the ball a little low sometimes. Then Green built on a decade of NBA experience.
“It takes a lot of patience and a lot of failure,” Green said. “I’ve been in that situation multiple times, many times. And I’ve missed. Sometimes you’re gonna miss. But you’ve gotta go take that next shot and don’t worry about it.”
Given a second chance, James and Davis overpowered Doncic, who scored all of Dallas’ seven overtime points. James and Davis combined for 15, and Green scored the 16th.
In the end, the poise of a team of veterans prevailed.