LeBron James
(Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images)

LeBron' triple-double guides Lakers first road win

by Rodrigo Azurmendi
Staff Writer

LeBron James had that look.

Despite double-digit deficits throughout the night and a rabid arena going off after every Luka Doncic play, the King was a man possessed – stubbornly willing the Lakers to their fourth consecutive win.

L.A. struggled mightily to score outside the paint early, with its shooters missing some wide-open shots, and the defense waxing and waning heading into halftime.

But the Lakers have a King. They also have Anthony Davis, author of the quietest 31-point performances. And of course, they have a player in Danny Green who’s lived through the highest pressure situations in basketball, and has rings with multiple franchises to prove that they rarely faze him.

However, this win in Dallas doesn’t happen without LeBron’s greatness.

“Nobody probably in the history of the game delivers the ball to shooters or to scorers better than LeBron James,” coach Frank Vogel said. “And when he’s scoring as well, he’s near impossible to beat.”

On Friday night, James became the oldest player in the history of the NBA to have a game with 30+ points, 15+ assists and 10+ rebounds. He finished the night with 39-16-12, respectively, adding four steals and going 13-for-23 for good measure.

His long-range shooting (4-for-9 from beyond the arc) was finally able to give the Lakers a dose of spacing in the third quarter, and that was all the team needed. The offense flowed better, and it took a little over 3 minutes to erase a 10-point halftime deficit.

The Mavericks eventually opened up another 10-point lead early in the fourth, but this team is proven to be as resilient as it is talented.

“We didn’t panic,” Vogel said.

James was right on cue again, but this time he had a lot more help: a Kyle Kuzma running layup, a healthy dose of interior dominance from AD, and the aforementioned clutch gene from one cold-blooded former Tar Heel.

After a Dorian Finney-Smith three and a Dwight Powell free-throw, the Lakers needed a long-range bucket to send the game to overtime. What came next was as majestic as expected from James and Green:

The Mavericks overplayed James’ drive and left the wrong guy open, and Green did what he does best, picking up the pass almost at his feet, double-clutching to avoid Seth Curry’s contest, and draining the clutch jumper.

All in a single motion, making an incredibly difficult task seem mundane.

“I just tried to put it on time, on target,” a smiling James explained. “It was a little low, but he actually likes the ball sometimes a little lower for him so he gets his legs into it, and he was able to knock it down.”

The shot extended the game, but in essence it was checkmate right then and there. The five minutes of overtime were simply a compilation LeBron’s greatest hits.

A balletic pick and roll dish. A 27-foot step back three pointer. Some clutch free throws.

All while wearing his signature scowl – the dead giveaway sign that the he’d gone to that next level few ever reach.

“You see when he gets that look in his eyes,” Vogel said. “In the third quarter he changed the momentum of the game, put it in our favor, and then obviously late in the game. His ability to not only make big shots, but quarterback the action out there, it’s just special.”

PLENTY OF HELP ALONG THE WAY

While James willed the Lakers to victory, he wasn’t alone in accomplishing it. In the second half, Alex Caruso and Dwight Howard became the unsung heroes, propping up a defense that wound up holding the Mavericks to 39.2% from the field.

Doncic was the only Dallas player to score in double digits after halftime – and the only Maverick to score at all in overtime.

That meant completely shutting down Kristaps Porzingis, but also closing most avenues to the rack. Dallas scored just 14 points in the paint in the second half plus overtime.

As Vogel also pointed out, the Lakers were able to finish possessions, allowing just 3 offensive rebounds after giving up 12 before halftime. That made the home offense extremely reliant on Doncic to the detriment of everybody else, allowing L.A. to head to San Antonio with its first road win in the bag.

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