The Lakers came back from 27 points down to beat the Mavericks 111-108 on Sunday in Dallas.
Here are four reasons why they were able to mount their largest comeback for a win this season:
LeBron James’ toughness
In the third quarter with the team on its way back from a 27-point first half deficit, James planted his right foot and crumpled to the court in severe pain. Play stopped because of an inadvertent whistle, but James was slow to get up.
He re-laced his right shoe and after some hobbling, he stayed in the game — though he was obviously effected.
“It’s been better. That’s for sure,” James said afterward. “But I definitely wasn’t going to go to the locker room and not finish the game out tonight. Just understood the importance of the game and then with the momentum that we had, I felt like we could still win after being down. We’ll monitor it the next couple days, see how it feels and go from there.”
James scored 10 in the third, including a few on some grounded post moves when he stepped through the defense.
“Yeah,” Austin Reaves deadpanned, “I told him stop watching my film.”
With James hobbled and the Lakers’ three-point attack invisible, Anthony Davis went to work, scoring the game’s biggest baskets, including a turnaround jumper over Luka Doncic.
“My confidence is always high. Tonight our shooters, or us as a team, we’re not shooting the ball great,” Davis said. “And so, I was just able to be a little bit more aggressive. We were running some plays where I was able to catch the ball and make decisions. So just coming out and being aggressive and doing what I have to do to help the team win. And then just making reads from there, whether it’s going into a pick-and-roll, shooting the ball or making a play for a teammate. I just want to come out and be aggressive every single night.”
He led the Lakers with 30 points to go with 15 rebounds and three blocked shots.
“It’s great to see,” coach Darvin Ham said. “I know he’s having fun, again, playing pain-free. And that’s when you see it — when he’s really emotionally, spiritually involved in game, not just physically. And we tried to ride him a little bit and feed him, calling his number continuously and he delivered.”
Luka locked down
Jarred Vanderbilt quickly got called for two fouls Sunday and, as he went to the bench, Doncic caught fire. When Vanderbilt reentered the game to guard the most valuable player candidate, everything changed.
“My mindset was to just make him uncomfortable,” Vanderbilt said. “He’s a hell of a player when he’s comfortable and get into his rhythm and get into his zone. I was just trying to disrupt that, just picking him up 94 [feet], making him work. I knew throughout the course of the game he’s going to get tired, get fatigued just bring the ball up and down the whole court and then try to make a move after I’ve already cut eight seconds off the clock.
“So, I knew it was going to get tiring. My thing was to just get up in him and force him to drive. And just be physical with him and make him uncomfortable and I think in the second half we did a good job of that without fouling.”
In the third quarter alone, Vanderbilt had three steals. He finished with 15 points, 17 rebounds and four steals.
They stayed calm
The Lakers were able to flip pressure on Dallas, the opposite of the Christmas game when the Mavericks blew the Lakers out in the third.
“I just think we walked them down, man, with our aggressiveness,” Ham said. “Again, going to the basket, really living in the paint, forcing them to play a more physical game than they probably wanted to. AD was phenomenal. Bron had his stretches where he was phenomenal. And that was the thing: you look at the stats and we only make six threes and they make 20 and we still come up with the W.”
It’s the Lakers’ third win a row.
“Each and every game, we’ve gotten better, gotten more chemistry,” Vanderbilt said. “Just trying to keep building in that right direction as we keep progressing. I can see the chemistry getting there each and every game. Like I said, we need every game right now. Just continue to fight and play every game like we need it.”