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Lakers need Austin Reaves game-winner to escape a .500 Mavericks team playing without Luka Doncic

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There are two ways you can look at the Los Angeles Lakers‘ 107-104 overtime victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday. One, it was a good sign that the Lakers could dig deep to snatch a gutty, defensive-minded victory from the jaws of what looked like a pretty certain defeat. 

Or two, it’s a decidedly bad sign that it took LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook playing 124 combined minutes, a crazy, game-tying 3-pointer to survive regulation, and another wild 3-pointer to finally win in overtime to beat a .500 Mavericks team (14-14 after Wednesday) that was playing without Luka Doncic

Through my prism, it’s the latter. The Lakers, at least so far, are just a regular-old team that can beat anyone or lose to anyone on any given night, and if Davis isn’t going to be as consistently great as his talent suggests he should be moving forward, that’s not likely to change. 

But shout out to Lakers rookie Austin Reaves, who laced the biggest shot of his life, the aforementioned game-winning 3-pointer, with less than a second remaining in overtime.

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Reaves, who hit five of his six 3-pointers on Wednesday, is an intriguing player, and this was surely a magical moment for him. But it speaks to the dearth of shooting on this misshaped Lakers roster that an undrafted, 32-percent 3-point shooter averaging about six points per game feels like has to become a bigger part of the rotation for the LeBron-Davis-Westbrook trio to have a chance, at least until some kind of trade is pulled off. 

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Give Westbrook credit for his play down the stretch. He forced the action downhill, getting to the bucket himself and setting up his teammates. Watch that Reaves 3 again. Westbrook easily could’ve jacked up a corner 3, but instead, he put the ball on the floor, got into the lane and created the open 3 for Reaves. 

That’s good stuff, but relying on Russ to make this many winning plays is just not a proven model for success, at least not over the last half-decade, if not longer. 

As mentioned, the Lakers only made it to overtime by the skin of their teeth in the first place. Down three with under 10 seconds to play, James missed a 3-pointer and two Mavericks, Maxi Kleber and Kristaps Porzingis, wound up essentially fighting each other for control of what would’ve been a game-securing rebound. 

But in the midst of their struggle, Davis popped his hand in the mix and the ball sprung loose, right into the hands of Wayne Ellington, who raced behind the corner 3-point line, pump-faked, and stuck a 3 with two seconds to play. 

Again, not exactly high-percentage stuff. But hey, a win’s a win for a team that has hovered around .500 all season. The good news is the Lakers are 11-6 with LeBron in the lineup. The bad news is there is no margin for error. LeBron has to play a ton of minutes and in those minutes he has to be incredibly productive for the Lakers to have a chance to beat even average teams. 

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LeBron hit four of his nine 3-pointers against the Mavericks, and he’s been playing at an MVP level in averaging close to 30 points over his last nine games. In the end, that plus Reaves hitting the shot of his life was enough to bail the Lakers out against a pretty average team without its MVP-level superstar. Just don’t count on that being a long-term plan against teams that are actually good at full strength. 


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