For as strong of a first quarter the Los Angeles Lakers put together in their win against the Indiana Pacers, which statistically was their best of the season, the pendulum swung in the opposite direction on the second night of a back-to-back.
The Dallas Mavericks opened the game with an 8-2 run and led by as many as 13 points in the opening quarter. The Lakers were sluggish defensively and struggled from the field, highlighted by missing each of their seven attempts behind the arc within the first 12 minutes.
Somewhat surprisingly, LeBron James was not immune to the team’s struggles. He shot just 1-of-6 from the field, committed four turnovers and picked up two fouls. “Coming off a back-to-back it just took us a quarter to get into it. It started with me,” James said.
“I was horrendous in the first quarter. I told the team that was all my wrongdoing. I had four turnovers and wasn’t as engaged as I should’ve been to start the game. It resulted in us not having a very good first quarter at all.
“You take responsibility, you reload and hit the rest button. I’m my own biggest critic. I already knew the type of first quarter I had. I already knew I would be much better when I went back in.”
James returned to play eight minutes in the second quarter, attacked the basket with a relentless focus, made all five field goal attempts, hauled in 2 rebounds and dished 2 assists. His efforts were part of the Lakers cutting what grew to a 15-point deficit down to five at halftime.
They road that momentum into the third quarter and took control in the fourth. The game saw a 30-point swing when the Lakers pulled ahead by 15 points late in the fourth quarter. James finished with a team-high 28 points to go along with 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
Before the 16-year veteran managed to turn his night around, he was on the wrong end of a highlight for Luka Doncic. The Rookie of the Year frontrunner collapsed on help defense and came up with consecutive blocks on James’ layup attempts.
“He actually came out of nowhere to get the double block on me. It wasn’t even his man, he covered for his man. I told him, I said, ‘I didn’t even see you,'” James said. Doncic picked off James’ pass attempt a couple possessions later.
The 19-year-old also drew an offensive foul from his idol. Though, James revealed that was largely by his own volition and for good-natured competition. “I saw him on that one,” he said. “I made sure I charged into him on that one. I did that on purpose.”