Extra Pass: All eyes on LeBron-Luka duel

Published January 12, 2023, 11:00 PMPolo Bustamante

LeBron James’ Lakers take on Luka Doncic’s Dallas Mavericks tomorrow.

What’s up with the Dallas Mavericks?

Entering December, the Mavericks were on the edge of the cliff, in danger of losing even their spot in the play-in tournament. That was a disappointing place to be for a team everyone pegged as a top contender in the West.

Luka Doncic and the rest of the team decided to turn things around in December. They went 11-6 for the month which included a three-game and seven-game winning streak. Doncic, for his part, averaged 35.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 9.3 assists during that stretch.

Now, the Mavericks are at 23-19 and right smack in the middle of the Western Conference playoff race. This is the same story as last season for the team. Dallas just needs one good run to figure things out and they’re off galloping to the top of the standings. 

With everything that they do, it all starts and ends with Doncic. As incredible as he’s been this season, Doncic has found a way to be even better during that December run. He improved his numbers nearly across the board and that has reflected in his play on the court. The rest of the Mavericks responded and elevated their games alongside Doncic.

Dallas has slowed down a bit to open 2023. They’ve lost three of their first five games and Doncic has also been limited in their three losses. A win against the LA Lakers is not only the perfect way to snap them out of their mini-funk, but it also helps keep them afloat in the rough West playoff waters.

What’s up with the Los Angeles Lakers?

What the Mavericks have done, the Lakers are still aiming to do.

Currently, LA is 12th in the West with a 19-22 record. While that record isn’t ideal, there’s a reason for optimism. The team is only two games away from the sixth seed in the West. That doesn’t seem so far away now compared to where they were just a few weeks ago.

Back on Christmas day, the Lakers sank to as low as seven games under .500 with a 13-20 record. The team that put them in that hole, ironically, was the Mavericks. Since then, they’ve gone 6-2 and are now only three games away from an even win-loss slate.

What’s even more impressive is that LA is doing this even with Anthony Davis sidelined due to a foot injury. Leading the way – to no one’s surprise – has been LeBron James. He’s been incredible in five of the team’s six wins during that stretch, averaging 36.0 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 7.4 assists. Just when everyone thought he was finally slowing down, James once again proves that he’s not human.

Things are looking up for the Lakers. Even though their five-game winning streak was snapped in their last game against the Denver Nuggets, the undermanned team without James, Davis, Austin Reeves, and Lonnie Walker put up a fight and refused to get blown out in embarrassing fashion. That just speaks to the growing confidence of the rest of the team.

Davis is set to return in the next few games, James is back after a one-game rest, and the rest of the Lakers are raring to go. This game against the Mavericks could very well be the start of something promising for the Lakers.

Storyline to watch out for

The Lakers are known for their third-quarter let-downs. It’s become a running joke online that a Laker game only really starts in the third quarter.

The Lakers give up, on average, 31 points in the third quarters of this season. They’re also only able to score 28 during that same stretch. While that difference might not be a lot, it doesn’t show the kind of momentum swings their opponents can have during the third quarter.

The last time LA faced Dallas, they had an awful third quarter which allowed the Mavericks to get back in the game. The Lakers looked comfortable heading into the halftime break, leading by eight points. Midway through the third, the Mavericks were able to overtake the Lakers after going on a 19-9 run. LA managed to score only 21 points in the third period while allowing Dallas to drop a whopping 51 points on them. After that, the game was practically over.

The Lakers don’t need to win the third quarter. They just need to not get outscored by 30 points in this rematch against the Mavericks.


The easy pick here would be the Mavericks. They’ve been better than the Lakers this season. But taking a look at their past few games, LA is trending up while Dallas is slowly plateauing. The Lakers are desperate and that hunger could be what pushes them over the Mavericks in this game. 

Where to watch

You can catch two of the hottest players in the league, King James and Luka Magic, go to battle for a crucial win, live at 11:00 AM on NBA League Pass.