Lakers dominate Dallas in throwback style, return to .500

Luka Doncic had just hit a three-pointer over Christian Wood when the Dallas Mavericks star again got the switch he wanted.

After splashing home the previous shot over his former teammate, Doncic tried to break down Wood, powering to the left elbow. Wood fought his way to the spot, and even after Doncic delivered a wrecking-ball shoulder bump, Wood recovered to contest the shot.

The ball grazed the front of the rim and Wood grabbed the rebound. LeBron James scooted up the left side of the court, and the Lakers triggered the break with an outlet.

A blink after James caught the ball, he threw a backhand bounce pass to a streaking Jarred Vanderbilt for a two-handed dunk.

It was great basketball — a play colored with continuity, effort, selflessness and ease.

And against the backdrop of the last 18 games, it was certainly notable.

For just the second time since Dec. 12, the Lakers won consecutive games, beating the Mavericks 127-110 on Wednesday night. They’ve won four of their last six games after losing 10 of the previous 13.

“Usually when you play good defense, it triggers good offense,” coach Darvin Ham said. “…It’s been great to watch.”

The team is again .500 at 21-21. D’Angelo Russell led the Lakers with 29 points, Anthony Davis had 28 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, and James had 25 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

They shot 53.8% from the field and had 33 assists, improving to 10-4 when they have 30 or more as a team.

“The rotations have been pretty solid because coach knows who’s playing, who’s not playing,” James said, adding that “guys are logging minutes with lineups that they’re kind of starting to get a familiarity with.”

While Doncic scored 33 in his return after missing five games with an injury, he needed 24 attempts, the Lakers holding him and Kyrie Irving to a combined three for 14 from three-point range.

Vanderbilt was a big part of that, the lanky defender looking more like himself after missing the first 20 games because of a heel injury.

“He’s getting healthier and healthier,” James said. “That’s helping him. It’s helping him out with his athleticism, kicking back into his athleticism, and he’s getting more and more confidence.”

The Lakers struggled to make shots early, but after Davis and James softened the defense, Russell got hot from deep, hitting three straight threes in the third quarter as the Lakers outscored Dallas 42-27.

“I know what I’m capable of,” Russell said. “I never forget it.”

Forty-two games into this season, though, the Lakers rarely have flashed the spirit and success of the team that rallied from the play-in tournament to the Western Conference finals last year.

And while home wins over Dallas and Oklahoma City this week are impressive, they’re still just two slivers in a pie, and so far the Lakers have lost as much as they’ve won.

But the door seems to be opening.

The Lakers host Brooklyn on Friday and Portland on Sunday with a chance to build momentum for the first time since winning the in-season tournament.

And plays like the one in the fourth quarter, a dunk that punctuated another good win, are the key moving forward.

“We’re just moving the basketball,” Davis said. “Trying to play the right way. When we share the basketball, good things tend to happen. So we’re just trying to make the right plays.”

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