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Lakers fade at finish and lose again to Mavericks, who are quickly closing gap

The Mavericks' Luka Doncic shoots as the Lakers' Wesley Matthews defends during the first half April 24, 2021.
The Mavericks’ Luka Doncic gets past the Lakers’ Wesley Matthews for a shot Saturday night. Doncic had 18 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds in Dallas’ 108-93 win.
(Ron Jenkins / Associated Press)

The ball entered to Anthony Davis in the post on the left block, his favorite spot. Dallas knew that too and immediately sent the double team. With the extra defender approaching, Davis’ eyes darted to the perimeter for the open man.

He spotted Dennis Schroder and sent him the ball on a line. As the defense recovered to the Lakers’ point guard, Schroder zipped the ball to Alex Caruso. Before it could even settle into his hands, Caruso had moved it again, this time to an open Kyle Kuzma in the right corner.

Swish — the perfect offensive possession ending with a perfect jumper.

In the middle of the second quarter, the visiting Lakers looked like they were on their way to an easy night, outclassing and outplaying the banged-up Mavericks. It seemed almost easy.

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It was not, the Lakers losing their second straight at Dallas, falling 108-93 on Saturday night. The loss moves the Mavericks to within just 1½ games of the Lakers’ No. 5 seed in the West.

The Lakers coughed up a 17-point first-half lead to the Mavericks, playing without Kristaps Porzingis and Josh Richardson. They were miserable on offense, disorganized and confused on defense.

The Lakers scored only 35 points in the second half, 14 in the fourth quarter, Davis shooting five for 19 in his second game back. Defensively, they had no shot against Luka Doncic, who carved up the Lakers’ doubles teams with 13 assists.

“He just waits and reads,” Lakers center Marc Gasol said.

The Lakers' Anthony Davis and LeBron James, who is out with an injury, talk during a timeout April 24, 2021.
The Lakers’ Anthony Davis and LeBron James, out with an ankle injury, talk during a timeout. In his second game back from a long injury absence, Davis scored 17 points but shot five for 19.
(Ron Jenkins / Associated Press)

The Lakers held the Mavericks’ star to 18 points. But the double-team strategy that forced turnovers in the first half got solved. Doncic found wide open teammates for easy baskets, center Dwight Powell scoring 25 points on a night in which he missed one of his 12 shot attempts.

“We had the mindset to make other guys beat us,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “We were late, not tough enough with those rotations.”

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The Lakers started Ben McLemore for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who missed the game with a sprained ankle.

McLemore hit six three-pointers and scored 20 points, the lone Lakers starter who wasn’t a negative in the plus-minus column (he was neutral).

In 2016, LeBron James tweeted that Kendrick Lamar should release his untitled songs, and he did. James just posted a ‘dying need’ for more new music.

“Ben gave us a good life, especially at the start of the game,” Vogel said.

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The other change was strategic. Vogel kept Montrezl Harrell on the bench, sitting the reigning sixth man of the year and the Lakers’ marquee offseason addition for the first time this season, electing to go with Gasol off the bench as the team’s backup center.

Vogel said he spoke with Harrell about the decision before the game, citing a desire to keep all three of his centers sharp.

“He understands the big picture and what we’re trying to get accomplished and he was great with it,” Vogel said of Harrell. “He understood.”

Asked about his playing time and how his role works on a nightly basis, Gasol smiled.

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“Don’t ask me,” he said with a laugh. “I just work here.”

The rotations, though, won’t matter much if the Lakers can’t figure out how not to play like they did offensively in the second half Saturday.

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Highlights from the Lakers’ 108-93 loss to the host Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night.

They made only 30% of their shots in the final two quarters, making only four of 24 (16.7%) from three-point range in the second half.

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“Offensively, we’ve got to figure some things out,” Kuzma said.

“Too perimeter orientated,” Vogel said of the offense. “Just shot the ball horrifically.”

Some of that will be fixed with Davis continuing to play more minutes and shed more rust, an obvious part of his recovery after missing 30 games because of calf and Achilles injuries.

Even though he again struggled to hit shots, his coach and teammates saw more glimpses of the player Davis has been throughout his career as a star in the league.

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Lakers’ Anthony Davis and Mavericks’ Luka Doncic were the main attractions, but L.A.'s backcourt of Dennis Schroder and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope earned rave reviews.

“He looked a little more like himself,” Kuzma said. “But still, there’s rust.”

And the Lakers are content with letting him work his way through it. They hope it won’t cost them wins. They hope it won’t make them fall in the standings.

But if it does, it does.

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For the Lakers to execute like they did on that one perfect play in the first half, they’re going to need Davis and LeBron James healthy and available. Perfection, with those two, is just so much more available.

It’s the Lakers’ only shot.


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