The still shorthanded Los Angeles Lakers had a tough matchup against the Dallas Mavericks and Luka Doncic on Thursday night and explored all kinds of options to slow down the talented Slovenian.
Doncic came into the matchup averaging a whopping 28.6 points, 8.7 assists and 8.0 rebounds this season, proving a tall task for any NBA defense to contain. So what was the Lakers’ game plan to limit Doncic?
“We’re planning on kidnapping him,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel joked prior to the game.
That would have been a better option than what the Lakers ended up doing to defend Doncic, who scored a game-high 30 points, leading the Mavericks to a 115-110 win.
The win was an important one for the Mavericks, who are trying to crawl out of the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference and avoid a play-in game. The Mavericks moved to 32-26, winning two straight after losing four out of five.
“For us, it’s playing hard, playing with high energy,” Doncic told reporters after the win. “The games we lose, I think our energy wasn’t there, and we didn’t play hard. So I think those two things are the key to the playoff.”
The Lakers are now nine games back of the first-place Jazz and are just 2.5 games ahead of the Mavericks and Trail Blazers.
Lakers Get Boost From Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis was on the court for the Lakers against the Mavericks for the first time after a 30-game absence due to a calf strain and issues with his Achilles. Davis was capped with his 15 minute restriction and certainly had some rust. He finished with four points on 2-for-10 shooting to go with four rebounds, one assist, one block and one steal.
“I didn’t think about it one time tonight,” Davis told reporters after the game. “Honestly, I just went out there and played. I think it can limit what you do if you’re out there thinking about your injury, so I just went out and played and not think about it. Just go out there and have fun and be excited to be back on the floor. That was my main thing. I was just excited to be back on the floor with the guys, so I never thought about it. I never did a limit to any moves. Wasn’t hesitant with anything, so that was a good sign for me.”
The Lakers played it safe with Davis and he will be eased into action. However, Davis said he felt good in his first action back, despite the less than stellar shooting night.
“I felt fine,” Davis said. “My wind felt better than expected. I got good looks. I missed. That comes with time and being able to get those game reps. But I felt good out there. I felt really good. And could do some things that could give the team a little juice.”
Andre Drummond Shines Alongside Anthony Davis
The Lakers are looking forward to see what healthy versions of Davis and LeBron James will look like next to new addition Andre Drummond.
Thursday proved to be a small sample size of what could be on the horizon and the Lakers should be happy with the results. Drummond was a team-best plus-14 and snagged 19 rebounds to go with 14 points.
“Being on the same court as AD has freed the game up for me a lot to do some of the things that I’m very good at, which is rebounding,” Drummond said. “The focus is all on him. When he gets the ball, all five eyes are at him, but not only are they doing that, they’re leaving the best rebounder in the NBA wide open. Any shot he misses, I’m right there to clean it up.”
The Lakers and Davis will see the Mavericks again on Saturday.