LOS ANGELES — Anthony Davis said there’s a simple solution to keeping the Los Angeles Lakers atop the league standings: lockdown defense.
“We just had to find ourselves again,” Davis said after the Lakers’ 108-95 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday at Staples Center. “We were able to get back to what we do defensively. And when we do that, we’re able to beat any team and feel good about ourselves.”
It wasn’t just any team they were putting the clamps on, either.
The Mavs own the NBA’s No. 1 offense in terms of efficiency, and L.A. was able to hold them to a season-low 95 points on 36% shooting (30.2% from 3) while causing Dallas to commit 19 turnovers.
“Just a bad night for us,” Mavs star Luka Doncic said. “Really bad night.”
The Lakers harassed Doncic, considered a top-five MVP candidate, into a 5-for-14 shooting night with six turnovers. According to research by ESPN Stats & Information, all of Doncic’s 14 attempts were contested. He shot just 1-for-6 with Avery Bradley guarding him, none of his attempts came off a pass and only one of his shots were attempted in transition.
“Every night, we want to dismantle teams defensively,” former three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner Dwight Howard said. “I think we have the talent, the willpower to do that. Every night, we dismantle teams on the defensive end.”
The Lakers head into 2020 having won two games straight to put their season-long, four-game losing streak behind them. At 26-7, they have the best record in the Western Conference.
Part of their defensive success Sunday was because of L.A. coach Frank Vogel’s decision to experiment with zone coverage for the first time all season.
“Facing the No. 1 offensive team in the league by a large margin, sometimes you got to junk the game a little bit, throw them just a different look,” Vogel said. “Teams do it to us, and usually we end up prevailing, but it can just change the game up a little bit. I presented it to our team as an option, ‘How do you guys feel about it?’ And guys liked the idea, and I think it was pretty effective tonight.”
It resulted in the Mavs scoring 46 fewer points Sunday than they did Saturday on the first night of their back-to-back in Golden State.
“I think it kind of messed them up a little bit; they tried different sets with [Kristaps] Porzingis and Luka, and it kind of disrupted them a little bit and taken them out of their offense,” Davis said.
The win was an early birthday present for LeBron James (13 points, 13 assists), who became the first player in league history to register 9,000 assists, 9,000 rebounds and 30,000 points.
James will turn 35 Monday on the team’s off day. L.A. next plays Wednesday at home against the Phoenix Suns.
“The milestone of it is when you grow up in the inner city around a lot of things that you don’t want your kids to see, to be able to get to this point in age where the statistics is stacked up against you for obvious reasons, that’s a blessing,” James said. “It’s more of a blessing for me to be able to do what I love to do every day and be able to let me family reap the benefits of that, and they allow me to be an inspiration to them. That is really cool.”
What wasn’t as cool, James said, was that he was going into his own pockets for his birthday wish.
“I don’t wish to have a party because I got to pay for it,” he said, leaning back in his chair with a smile on his face. “S—, I got to pay for my own damn birthday party.”