Luka Doncic’s thunderous dunk highlights Mavs win over LeBron James, Lakers

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LOS ANGELES — Luka Doncic has two wishes for his 23rd birthday: to “jump more” and for the Mavericks to keep winning.

Mission accomplished.

In the Mavericks’ 109-104 thrashing of the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, a day after turning 23, Doncic underscored Dallas’ dominating first half with the first dunk of his career: an explosive one-handed slam on the 6-10 All-Star Dwight Howard who sent his teammates into a frenzy of disbelief.

And then he helped the Mavericks stave off their major third-quarter slide by scoring seven fourth-quarter points while not shying away from taking on LeBron James one-on-one.

Doncic finished the game with 25 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal in 38 minutes, while Jalen Brunson (22 points) and Dorian Finney-Smith (16 points, nine rebounds) helped stabilize the starting training.

The Mavericks finished that five-game road trip — which lasted the All-Star break — with a 4-1 record.

“Yeah, I feel more bouncy,” Doncic said of his improved conditioning over the past two months. “But, the best thing, you know, is in the game. Fatigue and that kind of stuff is way better. Obviously, the rebound, as you saw today, is nice.

Before we assess what led to the Mavericks taking a 21-point second-quarter lead and having to shed their possessions, let’s first start with the play that will be one of the favorites to make Doncic’s career a highlight.

With about three and a half minutes remaining in the first quarter, Doncic dribbled onto the Crypto.com Arena court for what, at first, seemed like a normal offensive possession.

He moved towards the paint then sent the ball to Maxi Kleber on the left wing. Kleber then passes to Spencer Dinwiddie in the corner.

Dinwiddie’s gaze rang over the edge.

On the front possession, Doncic had crashed into traffic under the basket and landed hard on his back.

Surely he would be happy to let his teammates run an ordinary attacking set, right?

Not on a national TV stage with her parents, her agent and other birthday guests.

Even before Dinwiddie released the ball, Doncic started shoving, straight to the edge.

He timed his jump to get up for the rebound and connect on a one-handed slam.

Doncic let out a shout, flexing towards the crowd behind the basket.

Was it the highest he had ever jumped?

“Oh yeah,” Doncic said with a smile. “I banged my head.”

Think he could have gotten away with a slight push on Howard’s back for an extra lift?

“We’re not going to talk about that,” he said. “Let me enjoy the moment.”

His teammates certainly did.

Brunson ran to the sideline. Reggie Bullock and Theo Pinson strutted halfway down the field. Sterling Brown pulled his hair out. Tim Hardaway Jr., a boot on his broken left foot, had to hold Boban Marjanovic’s arm for balance.

“I didn’t know what to do,” Brunson said.

“I had to take a second look to make sure it was Luka,” coach Jason Kidd said.

“I thought it was Maxi,” Finney-Smith said. “I didn’t even know it was him until he got off the edge and started looking at the crowd, and I was like, ‘Oh wow.’ I don’t know what happened. LA or something. Must feel good. Happy birthday, Lucas.

Doncic was 9 of 21 from the field and 0 of 5 from three, the latter stat epitomizing the Mavericks’ struggles in the third quarter.

The Lakers beat Dallas 31-14 in the period to erase the Mavericks’ 71-56 halftime lead, which they had built on a 41-point second quarter.

Two nights after escaping Golden State with a 21-point second-half comeback win, Kidd warned the Lakers and James would come back from halftime with a vengeance. After all, Los Angeles had lost nine of 12 games on Tuesday, including a 28-point home loss, complete with boos, on Sunday against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Dallas shot 1 of 9 of three in the third quarter while James hit a series of 3-pointers, including one from the logo. Los Angeles led by six points (91-85) after a James dunk with 10:19 remaining.

But, Doncic returned to the field for the home stretch moments later.

The Mavericks held the Lakers to 17 points in the final period while Doncic hit a Dirk-style fade on James on the baseline, provided a looping assist to Dwight Powell on the next possession and completed the last clutch of the Mavericks. buy time to fulfill his second birthday wish.

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