The Los Angeles Lakers hosted a national TV game last night, which means the Los Angeles Lakers were once again embarrassed in front of a large audience. L.A. has won exactly one game since February 5, they currently sit closer to the 11th seed (two games) than the eighth seed (3.5 games), and pretty much everyone is fed up with them. Lakers fans have turned on their team, with good reason, and while one might assume that the team is pretty much done and cooked and limping towards a merciful death in the playoffs, they continue to find new frontiers in collective embarrassment, which we should commend them for. They are dreadful to watch and I can't get enough. One person who has only embarrassed himself off the court is LeBron James (though one could argue the Lakers' endemic brokenness is also his fault.) But even he came up for an on-court roasting last night against the Mavericks.
Dallas won, obviously, and they took what turned out to be a decisive advantage thanks to three big jumpers from Luka Doncic. Doncic is a tremendous one-on-one player, which both guarantees the Mavericks can create good shots late in games but also dooms them to weird, non-functional quarters where nobody can really get it going. The latter occurred in the third quarter and the former in the fourth. The key here is that Doncic scored his three clutch buckets (and, for what it's worth, manufactured two more great looks) while being guarded by James. This happened not because the Lakers sicced James on Doncic in an attempt to regain control of the game, but because Doncic was going out of his way to get himself matched up with James, thus treating one of the greatest players in history like he was some defense-deficient scrub who didn't belong on the floor.
You can see Dorian Finney-Smith raise his hands in confusion when Doncic calls him over, as if saying, "You realize this is LeBron James right?" Didn't matter. Doncic won the game by going straight through James.
This is extremely rude, though it's hard to argue with the results. Doncic well and truly got his ass. The Lakers' bigger problem, however, is their misshapen half-court offense, which managed exactly two non-garbage time points in the final seven minutes. The Mavericks have a bizarrely great defense thanks to Jason Kidd, but the Lakers are running a severe juice deficit. James is kind of the only player who can run fast or beat a guy off a dribble or make a good pass, Russell Westbrook makes me too sad about the passage of time to really consider right now, and the team is relying on Carmelo Anthony to a truly alarming degree. Nothing is working and everything hurts, and something truly obscene is going to happen to these guys in the playoffs. James isn't giving up yet, though.
"Until you stomp me out, cut my head off, bury me 12 feet under, then I got a chance," he said after the game, adding, "I hate losing. I feel like poop right now. But tomorrow is a new day." So true. Tomorrow is a good day to thank the infamous person who came up with the idea of the play-in game (who James thrashed last year), since they're the only reason why this rotten squad will technically get to play an 83rd game.