James leads Lakers over frustrated Doncic, Mavericks 129-114

DALLAS (AP) — LeBron James drove for easy layups or quick passes to open shooters at the 3-point line early in another meeting with Dallas phenom Luka Doncic.

The 20-year-old Mavericks star played the last few minutes of the first half with a jersey he ripped into a V-neck look on a frustrating night against the player he admired growing up.

James had 35 points and 16 rebounds, Kyle Kuzma scored a season-high 26 points starting in place of injured star Anthony Davis, and the Los Angeles Lakers went up big early in a 129-114 victory over the Mavericks yesterday.

The four-time MVP scored or assisted on seven of the first nine LA baskets to help build a 22-point lead in the first half, while Doncic missed five free throws while ending up a team-worst minus-24 in scoring margin before halftime.

Hence, the torn jersey.

“I played really bad,” said Doncic, the 2019 Rookie of the Year. “I felt like I don’t know how to play basketball. It wasn’t me. I gotta get better. A lot.”

James was 14 of 25 from the field to help the Lakers shoot 53 per cent, and his 16 rebounds were a season high in LA’s seventh consecutive win.

“It’s not about how many you can win in a row,” James said. “It’s just how you continue to get better every individual game and I thought we did that here.”

Dallas coach Rick Carlisle was as flummoxed as his young star, getting ejected after his second technical early in the fourth quarter when he exploded over the Lakers getting to challenge an out-of-bounds call after he thought the Mavericks had thrown the ball in.

Dallas Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith attempts to defend against a shot by Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James. PHOTO: AP

Doncic, who had played James just about even while the Lakers took two of first three in the season series, had 25 points and 10 rebounds. But Dallas trailed by double digits for all but the first five- plus minutes.

“Those are emotions and feelings that are about winning and losing,” Carlisle said. “I get it. He’s going through a lot this year. He’s going through a lot of different situations.”

Davis missed the first game of a road back-to-back after taking a nasty fall in a 117-87 win over the Knicks in Los Angeles on Tuesday night. An MRI exam showed no major concerns, although Davis was extremely sore.

Kuzma filled in just fine in his second start, scoring 11 points in the first quarter after totaling just 13 in the first three meetings with Dallas. He ended up nine of 22 from the field, two of eight from long range.

“It’s not any extra motivation,” said Kuzma, whose previous season high was 25. “I’m just confident, especially when I know, being I’m a rhythm player, when my minutes are high, just trying to be myself.”

Both leading men — James and Doncic — were without their star sidekicks for the final regular-season meeting as both fell short of a triple-double after both had one in the previous meeting in Dallas. They had seven assists apiece.

Mavericks forward Kristaps Porzingis has already been ruled out for the final two games of a six-game homestand because of a sore right knee. It’s not the knee the seven-foot-three Latvian injured in his final game for the Knicks almost two years ago.

The Mavericks got within 91-81 late in the third quarter when Doncic found Tim Hardaway, who scored 22 points, for a three-pointer. It was the closest Dallas had been since 19-9 midway through the first.

Dallas never did get the deficit back to single digits, and James hit a three to open the fourth quarter to push the lead back to 16.