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Mavericks vs Lakers, Luka vs Lebron

The Lakers were spectacular for stretches of the second half and both overtimes in Thursday night’s bout with the Dallas Mavericks, chasing down loose balls, galloping in transition, muscling out stops at key moments. But greatness just flows from the fingertips of Luka Doncic, who some consider the best player on the planet right now.

The 23-year-old Slovenian pushed the Lakers to two extra periods with game-tying 3-pointers at the end of regulation and the first overtime. By the end of 58 minutes, the Lakers’ defense had all but run out of steam in a 119-115 loss that felt snatched from their hands.

James had 24 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists, while Russell Westbrook had a season-high 28 points. But Doncic had 35 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists with those timely tying buckets, pulling the Mavericks (24-19) across the line for their ninth win in their last 12 games. The Lakers (19-23) have lost two straight on the search for the momentum they seized upon to win five straight and get back in range of the play-in spots in the Western Conference.

The last overtime period was a frustrating one for the Lakers’ defense, which had largely put a cap on Doncic and the Dallas offense after a one-sided first quarter. Spencer Dinwiddie and Christian Wood found buckets in the paint, an area the Lakers had fiercely protected for so much of the game.

James could not find the shooting prowess that Doncic gave the Mavericks: The 38-year-old was just 9 for 28 from the field, missing all seven of his 3-point attempts. The most promising one rimmed out in the final minute of the first overtime, narrowly allowing Dallas a third chance to win the game.

Down by six points with 3½ minutes left in regulation, the Lakers rallied ahead with baskets from four different players, James had a tip-in, Westbrook and Wenyen Gabriel nailed 3-pointers to tie it, then Dennis Schroder had a finger-roll to give them a 99-97 lead. The Lakers had to sweat it out with 11 seconds left when an officiating review determined that Westbrook had been fouled instead of Schroder, one of the team’s best free-throw shooters who won a game last week at the line in Sacramento. But Westbrook, who was 3 for 6 at the line before that moment, sank both to give the Lakers a 3-point lead.

Unfortunately, that cushion wasn’t enough against Doncic, one of the best clutch shooters in the game. He took the ball back shortly after inbounding, then nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the arc with six seconds left.

Doncic’s tying shot was the unfortunate capper to what had been an impressive second-half defensive effort against the perennial MVP candidate. He had 12 points in the second half, and he was 4 for 11 after halftime when he pulled up for the last 3-pointer in the fourth quarter.

This one turned out to be quite an exciting game but ultimately the Mavericks and especially Luka were just too much for Lebron and the Lakers. While the Lakers still show some progress they have a long way to go if they want to be serious playoff contenders.