The Los Angeles Lakers still bring out the stars, even when their star, the NBA’s biggest star, is sitting in street clothes because of a groin injury.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, defensive lineman DeMarcus Lawrence and former quarterback Tony Romo were at American Airlines Center on Monday night, and so was Texas Rangers Hall of Famer and longtime Lakers fans Michael Young, as LeBron James nursed his strained groin.
They witnessed a bad loss by the home team.
The Dallas Mavericks couldn’t hold a 13-point halftime lead, getting outscored by 19 in the third quarter and 23 in the second half, and the LeBron-less Lakers sent the Mavs to a third straight loss, 107-97.
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The Mavs lost at home for only the fourth time this season even though in the first half it looked as if they would roll. Instead, the Lakers erased a 67-54 deficit after two quarters and stretch their lead to as many as 14 in the fourth quarter during what amounted to a 42-17 run.
Brandon Ingram didn’t score all of those points, though at times it felt like it. He scored a season-high 29 and Lonzo Ball added 21 a night after they were called out by coach Luke Walton.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle didn’t call anyone out, though just about everyone aside from rookie Luka Doncic was a strong candidate.
“I thought the second half as a whole was ugly, and we all own it,” Carlisle said. “Everybody in uniform, me, the coaches, we own it.”
The Lakers were playing the second of back-to-back road games against a Mavs team that is, for those just checking in on this season like the Cowboys stars, very good at home. Even after that disaster.
But, as Carlisle said before the game, the Lakers were a tough matchup for the Mavs before James arrived. The Lakers swept the three-game season series, with the first two wins in Los Angeles.
Of course, James played in those games, supplemented by the young players the Lakers have stockpiled. Those youngsters are thought to be talented, too, even if they aren’t showing it consistently.
But Ingram, the second overall pick in 2016 and Ball, first overall in 2017, were a stout duo during the Lakers’ charge to just their second win in seven games since James was injured.
Doncic, the third pick in the 2018 draft, did his best to keep the Mavs within striking distance, scoring 27 points. He scored four quick points after halftime and seven straight for the Mavs, but his spark didn’t take.
“Nothing is guaranteed just because you have a 13-point halftime lead,” Carlisle said. “You have to play the whole 48.”
Luka-mania, though, is just starting. He’s only going to get better, and what he did Monday after two not-so-good games at Staples Center is as much an indicator of that as the 34 points he scored Dec. 28 at New Orleans or the 11 straight points he scored to end the game and rally the Mavs to a Dec. 8 win against Houston.
Doncic wasn’t fooled a third time by the Lakers, though he shot less than 50 percent. He scored only 20 points combined in the first two games.
“You learn from your previous games,” Carlisle said. “Luka is very young but has a lot of experience in his career getting to second and third games over in Europe and now here. He’ll make the adjustments.”
The Mavs need, too, as well. The postgame news conference with Carlisle centered on the lack of ball movement offensively, so there’s that. The Mavs will practice Tuesday ahead of the Wednesday game with the Phoenix Suns, who have nine wins this season.
Two, though, are against the Mavs.
Not sure if Zeke, Tank and Tony will be in the house for that one.
“Every loss is disappointing to me, not just this one,” Doncic said. “Every loss that we have is disappointing.”