DALLAS — With Anthony Davis on the bench with street clothes you would think the Mavericks had a slight chance against the King and his strong supporting cast.
Despite not having Davis in the lineup, the Lakers built a 22-point lead in the second quarter and relied on Lebron James to their seventh straight win, 129-114 before 20,542 at American Airlines Center.
James had 35 points and 16 rebounds, Kyle Kuzma scored a season-high 26 points starting in place of injured Anthony Davis, and the Los Angeles Lakers went up big early and kinda cruised through the game.
“Just Hulk Hogan,” Lakers center Dwight Howard said. “He’s a little upset (Doncic); it’s understandable. Sometimes all of us want to rip our jerseys, you know, go crazy, but we gotta keep our heads. But he’s an unbelievable young player.”
Doncic spent much of the first half with his head hanging as Los Angeles built a 22 points lead early in the contest. He has admitted that he sometimes allows his emotions to have a negative effect on his court disposition. That appeared to be the case in the first half Friday night when Doncic committed five turnovers and missed five free throws and Dallas was outscored by 24 points in his 16 minutes of play.
“I played very bad,” said Doncic, who finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists and 6 turnovers. “I felt like I don’t know how to play basketball. I’ve got to get better a lot.”
James was 14 of 25 from the field to help the Lakers shoot 53%, and his 16 rebounds were a season-high in LA’s seventh consecutive win. James also played through flu-like symptoms, logging 32 minutes 16 seconds.
“It’s not about how many you can win in a row,” James said. “It’s just how you continue to get better every individual game and I thought we did that here.”
James now has 12,197 field goals in his career, moving past Michael Jordan and into fourth place on the all-time list.
The Lakers used a zone defense with Kuzma flying all over the place as well as a small lineup they were forced to employ when centers JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard both picked up five fouls.
“I’m just trying to be myself, be aggressive,” Kuzma said. “Like I said, I got more shots and minutes to play. That naturally is going to happen.”
With the small lineup, the Mavericks had a difficult time shooting over the top of the zone pressure with active hands in their faces.
Doncic wasn’t the only member of the Mavericks whose frustration got the best of them. Coach Rick Carlisle was ejected when he received his second technical foul with 9 minutes, 50 seconds remaining in the contest.
Dallas got within 91-81 late in the third quarter when Doncic found Tim Hardaway, who scored 22 points, for a trey. It was the closest the Mavericks had been since 19-9 midway through the first quarter.
The Mavs never did get the deficit back to single digits, and James hit a 3 from downtown to open the fourth quarter to push the lead back to 16 points.
“Look, in a leadership position, you’ve got to stand up for your guys,” said Carlisle, who ripped off his suit coat and stomped into the midcourt tunnel while shouting at the officials after being tossed. “There’s some things going on out there that are quite frankly shocking. Our guys are going through a rough time because of it, so I’ve got to stand up and defend them. That’s another part of my job, and I’m going to do it.”
“He is a guy that wants to win, and he gets frustrated,” Carlisle said. “Those are emotions and feelings that are about winning and losing, and so I get it. I get it. He’s going through a lot this year. He’s going through just a lot of different situations — some phenomenal performances and other nights where people are just taking physical liberties on him and beating the s— out of him. He’s learning how to deal with all that stuff, but it’s not easy.
The second night of a back-to-back for both teams Saturday, the Lakers in Oklahoma City and the Mavericks at home against Philadelphia.