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‘We keep progressing’: Lakers takeaways after beating Dallas

The Lakers came from 27 points behind to beat the Mavericks 111-108 in Dallas on Sunday.

Here are four reasons why they were able to make their biggest comeback for a win this season:

The toughness of LeBron James

In the third quarter, as the team was on its way back from a 27-point deficit in the first half, James planted his right foot and collapsed on court in severe pain. The game stopped because of an accidental whistle, but James was slow to get up.

He re-laced his right boot and after some stumbles he stayed in the game – although he was clearly affected.

‘It’s been better. That’s for sure,” James said afterwards. “But I had absolutely no intention of going to the locker room and not finishing the game tonight. I just understood the importance of the game and with the momentum we had I felt like we could still win after being down. We will keep an eye on it over the next few days, see how it feels and go from there.”

Lakers forward LeBron James fights Mavericks guard Luka Doncic for a loose ball.

(LM Otero/Associated Press)

James scored 10 in the third, including a few on some grounded post moves as he stepped through the defence.

“Yeah,” said Austin Reaves deadpanded, “I told him to stop watching my movie.”

Big shots

With James hobbled and the Lakers’ three-point offense unseen, Anthony Davis went to work and scored the game’s biggest baskets, including a reversing jumper over Luka Doncic.

“My confidence is always high. Tonight our shooters, or us as a team, aren’t shooting the ball right,” Davis said. “And so I could just be a little bit more aggressive. We played some plays where I could catch the ball and make decisions. So just come out and be aggressive and do what I have to do to help the team win. And then just read from there, whether it’s a pick-and-roll, shooting the ball, or making a play for a teammate. I just want to come out and be aggressive every night.

He led the Lakers with 30 points remaining with 15 rebounds and three blocked shots.

“It’s great to see,” said coach Darvin Ham. “I know he is having fun again, playing pain free. And that’s when you see it – when he’s really emotionally, spiritually involved in the game, not just physically. And we tried to ride and feed him a little while calling his number all the time and he delivered.

Luke imprisoned

Jarred Vanderbilt was quickly called for two fouls on Sunday and when he went to the bench, Doncic caught fire. When Vanderbilt re-entered the game to guard the most valuable player candidate, everything changed.

“My mindset was to just make him uncomfortable,” Vanderbilt said. “He’s a great player when he gets comfortable and gets into his rhythm and gets into his zone. I just tried to disrupt that by just lifting him 94 (feet), let him work. I knew during the game he would get tired, get tired, just run the ball up and down the entire court and then try to make a move after I’ve already cut eight seconds off the clock.

“So I knew it was going to be exhausting. My thing was to just get up in him and force him to ride. And just be physical with him and make him uncomfortable and I think we did well in the second half with no fouls.

In the third quarter alone, Vanderbilt had three steals. He finished with 15 points, 17 rebounds and four steals.

They remained calm

The Lakers were able to turn the pressure on Dallas the opposite of the Christmas game as the Mavericks blew out the Lakers in the third.

“I just think we knocked them down, man, with our aggressiveness,” Ham said. “Again, going to the basket, really living in the paint, forcing them to play a more physical game than they probably wanted. AD was phenomenal. Bron had his pieces where he was phenomenal. And that was the point: you look at the stats and we only make six threes and they make 20 and we still come up with the W.

It’s the Lakers’ third win in a row.

Every game we’ve gotten better, we’ve gotten more chemistry,” said Vanderbilt. “I just try to keep building in that right direction as we keep moving forward. I see the chemistry coming every game. Like I said, we need every game now. Just keep fighting and play every game the way we need to.”