The Mavericks should have never let Sunday’s match with the Los Angeles Lakers come down to the final possessions.
But when their 27-point lead evaporated, it did. And the Lakers knew exactly what crucial challenge the Mavericks were facing.
New team with new key players. Tense situation.
The Lakers know the drill. And they also know it’s easier said than done when it comes to clutch-time execution in that situation.
“I was just trying to speed him up and make the catch tough,” said Lakers’ newcomer Jarred Vanderbilt. “Those guys are still trying to figure out what they’re doing at the end of games, too.
“They’re a new team, or a new backcourt, as well. We were just trying to speed them up, cause a little chaos and indecision. And I think we were able to do that.”
The Mavericks were trailing 108-105 with 18 seconds remaining. After having a 27-point lead in the second quarter, it was a difficult spot to be in.
But not impossible.
But the inbounds pass went awry. Kyrie Irving led Luka Dončić with a pass near the midcourt line. Luka swatted it back into the front court. He later said it was his mistake not realizing he could go into the backcourt to retrieve the inbound pass.
But it sabotaged any chance the Mavericks had of making a late rally.
And it may have signified a turning point for the Lakers, who have been mostly underachieving this season, but made a major trade before the deadline, much like the Mavericks.
Since that deal that brought in Vanderbilt, DeAngelo Russell and Malik Beasley, the Lakers (29-32) have won four of five and now are looking a little more dangerous than they before the All-Star break.
“It could be,” coach Darvin Ham said of whether this game might be viewed as a turning point for the Lakers. “We knew going into the break after our last game we encouraged everybody to get some rest, but knowing that when we come out of this break, we got to be ready to get busy and really start forcing our will, so to speak, on the rest of this season so that we can secure a spot and get where we need to get to. And you’re witnessing the process of that.”
One thing that could derail such a turnaround would be injuries and the Lakers had a scare when LeBron James fell to the floor holding his right foot. He needed a couple minutes, but stayed in the game and finished it with 26 points and eight rebounds.
Afterward, he was limping noticeably on the way to the Lakers’ bus.
“It’s been better, that’s for sure,” he said of his foot postgame. “But I definitely wasn’t going to go to the locker room without finishing the game out. (With) the momentum we had, I felt like we could steal one after being down. We’ll monitor the next couple days, see how it feels and go from there.”
Finding different ways: The Lakers won despite missing their first 15 three-point tries and shooting just 32 percent in the first half.
In the second half, they outrebounded the Mavericks 30-17 and outscored them 64-47.
“We’re in a good place,” James said. “We’re going to try to continue that. We have the ability to now look at ways we can be good. If we can’t shoot it well, we can still get the ball popping, but we need to get the ball in the paint and get offensive rebounds when we’re not shooting well. To have that ability to say, OK, if we’re not shooting well, we can still be in the game, we can still be productive, that’s the key for our ballclub.”
Said Ham: “I just think we (wore) them down with our aggressiveness, going to the basket. Really living in the paint, forcing them to play a more physical game than they probably wanted to.
“And we only made six threes, they made 20 and we still came up with the W. The 62 points in the paint, that was huge.”
Injury update: Maxi Kleber and Davis Bertans remain sidelined, but both are trending in the right direction, Kidd said before Sunday’s game.
“Maxi and Davis are still out, but improving,” he said. “They did great with the stuff they’re working on. We’ll see at practice tomorrow (Monday) if they continue to keep improving. Hopefully on the home stand they get to play.”
There are four more opportunities on this stay at American Airlines Center for them to return, including Tuesday against Rick Carlisle’s Indiana Pacers.
Kleber has been out since mid-December with a right hamstring injury. Bertans suffered a left calf strain on Feb. 2 and has missed the last nine games.
“He just started to do some stuff,” Kidd said of Bertans. “He’s shooting the ball. As we go here this week, I can give you a little more concrete detail of when they’ll be back.”
Ones that got away: Here’s the list of biggest leads that the Mavericks have lost in franchise history.
LeBron James, Lakers mount 27-point comeback, the biggest of the season, to beat the Mavericks
LeBron James matched a career-best on Sunday afternoon while turning a blowout into a thrilling win over the Dallas Mavericks.
James and the Los Angeles Lakers rallied from a 27-point hole to beat the Mavericks 111-108 at the American Airlines Center on Sunday, which matched the largest comeback win James has had in his career. It also marked the largest comeback win anywhere in the league this season, and the largest Lakers comeback win since 2002 — when they rallied from 30 points to beat the Mavericks.
NBA teams were 138-0 this season when leading by 27 or more points before Sunday.
The Mavericks, after holding the Lakers to just 16 points in the first period, built a massive 48-21 lead near the midway point of the second quarter. The Lakers had missed their first 15 shots from behind the arc by that point, and seemed well out of it.
The Lakers, however, slowly chipped away and shut down both Mavericks stars Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving in the second half. Doncic scored 14 of his 26 points on the night in the first quarter, and Irving scored just four of his 21 points in the fourth quarter.
Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 30 points and 15 rebounds, and threw down a huge put-back dunk in the final minutes that propelled the Lakers to the three-point win.
James added 26 points and eight rebounds while shooting 10-of-23 from the field. Jarred Vanderbilt finished 15 points and 17 rebounds. The win marked the third-straight for the Lakers, and the fourth in their last five games.
Doncic added nine rebounds and five assists, and Irving finished with 11 rebounds and five assists. They were the only two Mavericks starters to score double figures. Dallas has now lost four of its last five games, and has only won once with both Irving and Doncic on the floor since their trade.
“I’m not the savior here. I’m not playing,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said, via ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “I’m watching, just like you guys. As a team, we’ve got to mature … We’ve got to grow up.”
LeBron James limps out of arena with foot injury
The Lakers got the win, but it may have come at a price.
James injured his right foot in the third quarter quarter, and was seen holding his ankle on the court and saying, “I heard a pop.” He insisted after that he never thought about sitting the rest of the way. He didn’t get into too much detail after, other than saying he “has been better.”
James was spotted limping out of the arena, too.
“He’s good,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said, via the OC Register’s Kyle Goon. “Our medical people are looking at him right now, and we’ll get a reevaluation in the morning.”
The Lakers have two games left in their three-game road trip. They’ll take on the Memphis Grizzlies next on Tuesday before wrapping up with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.
Tommy Fury stuns Jake Paul with split-decision win in Saudi Arabia
Jake Paul’s first fight against a true boxer didn’t go as planned.
Tommy Fury handed the YouTuber-turned-boxer the first loss of his career on Sunday night at Diriyah Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Fury beat Paul via a split decision in the eight-round bout despite being knocked down in the final round.
The judges scored it 76-73 twice for Fury and 75-74 once for Paul.
Paul said after the fight that he didn’t agree with the judges’ decision, and that he both got sick twice in camp and injured his arm — statements that drew boos from the crowd.
“But I lost. I’m not making excuses,” Paul said. “I’m just saying it wasn’t my best performance. I fell flat.”
Fury seemed to have a slight edge throughout most of the fight, but Paul was right in the mix and landed plenty of great punches of his own. Both fighters had a point deducted in the later rounds, too, for seemingly landing a punch to the back of the other’s head.
It was in the eighth round, however, when Paul bounced back and made his move after a slow seventh. Paul came out early with a left-handed jab that sent Fury stumbling back and down to the mat briefly — which marked the first and only knockdown of the bout.
“That wasn’t a knockdown, that was a slip,” Fury said. “That was genuinely a slip. I got up … I came right back into it.”
Fury didn’t seem too fazed by the knockdown and came out firing to close out the fight, landing several blows of his own to keep the advantage and grab the split-decision win. Fury threw almost double the amount of punches than Paul did in the fight, and landed 88 compared to just 49 from Paul.
Sunday’s fight was Paul’s biggest to date. Up until his bout with Fury, Paul has only taken on MMA fighters, another YouTuber and a former NBA player in the ring. His last win came in October after he outlasted 47-year-old former MMA star Anderson Silva.
While Fury is as real of a boxer as Paul has faced in his career, he’s not done much. Fury, the half-brother of heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, held an 8-0 record with four knockouts headed into Sunday’s fight, which sounds impressive on its face. His eight opponents, however, held a combined 24-176-5 overall record — which isn’t great.
One of Paul’s biggest criticisms is that he hadn’t fought a real boxer. While Fury is as close to that as he’s come, it’s still not as great as the two have tried to make it out to be in the lead-up to Sunday’s fight.
But in the end, it doesn’t matter much anymore. Up against the best fighter he’s seen so far in his career, Paul lost.
If Paul ever wants to run it back, Fury is ready.
“If he wants a rematch, he can have a rematch,” Fury said.
Damian Lillard drops career-high 71 points in Trail Blazers’ win over Rockets
Damian Lillard has 5 career 60-point games, behind only Kobe Bryant and Wilt Chamberlain
Damian Lillard went off on Sunday night and reached multiple new milestones in the process.
Lillard, after scoring 41 points in the first half, notched a career-high 71 points in the Portland Trail Blazers’ 131-114 win over the Houston Rockets. Lillard shot 22-of-38 from the field and made a franchise best 13 3-pointers while playing 39 minutes.
Lillard’s accomplishments Sunday night were lengthy. He now has five 60-point games in his career, which trails only Kobe Bryant’s six and Wilt Chamberlain’s 61. He has the eighth-highest scoring game in league history, and, at 32, is the oldest player in league history with a 70-point game. He is also the first person in league history to score at least 70 points in less than 40 minutes.
Only Chamberlain, Bryant and David Thompson have scored more points in a single game than Lillard.
Lillard entered the locker room at halftime with 41 points after draining eight 3-pointers in the first two quarters. He went 8-of-11 for 25 points in nine minutes in the second quarter alone. That made him just the second player in history to drop at least 40 points with eight 3-pointers, joining only Bryant, who did so in 2003. It’s also tied with Kyrie Irving for the second-most scored in one half in the past 25 seasons, behind only 42 points from Bryant in 2003, per ESPN.
Lillard got to 50 points by the end of the third quarter, though the Rockets cut the lead to 14 points after trailing by as many as 23 in the period. He pushed to 59 after a huge and-one dunk over Jabari Smith Jr. midway through the fourth quarter.
Then, after sinking a pair of free throws, Lillard broke his career-high mark with a step-back 3-pointer over Jae’Sean Tate, his 12th of the night.
It didn’t end there. Lillard kept going, hitting another 3-pointer and getting to 71 points before the night was over. He kept trying to reach Klay Thompson’s single-game 3-point record of 14, but seemed gassed in the final minute and couldn’t quite get there.
In the end, Lillard still broke a franchise record for made threes in a game. He finished with six rebounds and six assists, and shot a perfect 14-of-14 from the free-throw line.
Jerami Grant added 13 points for Portland in the win, and Nassir Little put up 11 points and nine rebounds off the bench. They were the only other two Trail Blazers to hit double figures.
Alperen Sengun led Houston with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Tate added 17 points of his own in the loss. Tari Eason finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.