LeBron James didn’t exactly pass the torch to Luka Doncic on Frida night, but the NBA’s reigning king and one of its most promising young players put on an individual showcase for the ages in Dallas. As the Lakers stole a dramatic 119-110 overtime win, James and Doncic became the first opponents to each post triple-doubles with at least 15 assists in NBA history.
James finished with 39 points (on 13-of-23 shooting), 16 assists, 12 rebounds, and the win to move the Lakers to 4-1. Doncic finished with 31 points (on 10-of-23 shooting), 15 assists, 13 rebounds, and the respect of James. The entire country got to witness the show under the bright lights of ESPN. Watch all the highlights here.
James was Doncic’s idol growing up in Slovenia. At least for a night, the two felt like they were on equal footing, trading incredible plays back-and-forth the entire evening.
The Lakers took home the win thanks to a Danny Green three — off a feed from James — that forced OT at the buzzer. Dallas will be thinking about that play for a long time (why didn’t they foul up three?). The real winner? NBA fans, who got to enjoy the most entertaining game of the young season in primetime on national TV.
James still might be the best player player alive
LeBron is less than two months away from his 35th birthday, but you’d never know it by how he played against Dallas. He put on a strong argument that he remains the best player in the NBA even after a trying season last year. Just look at the way Dallas defenders bounced off him on this coast-to-coast drive.
That is vintage James, combining speed and power with an unbreakable resolve to make a winning play. On a night when the Lakers shot only 28 percent from three and co-star Anthony Davis was very good but not spectacular, James dragged Los Angeles to the win by sheer force of will.
James made the two biggest plays of the nigh. First there was the pass to Green on the three that forced overtime. Then, in OT, there was this step-back dagger three over Doncic that sealed the win.
LEBRON WITH THE DAGGER!! WHO SAID THIS MAN AINT CLUTCH!? pic.twitter.com/kPiPeUF834— Julian the NBA stan (@nbacommish17) November 2, 2019
The Lakers are currently atop the Western Conference standings after five games off the strength of the James/Davis pairing. There has been some concern about the quality of their supporting cast, but if LeBron keeps playing like this, there’s no ceiling on what LA can accomplish this season.
Doncic might have played his best game yet
This was the 10th triple-double of Doncic’s career in only his 77th game. There’s an argument that, given the stage, he’s never played better. Luka mirrored LeBron as an oversized offensive initiator who made every decision for his team with the ball in his hands. His passing skill stood out, as he repeatedly found shooters dotting the arc and lob targets rolling to the rim.
The touch on this pass is tremendous.
Doncic also knows when he has to carry the scoring load himself. He’s a freight train going to the basket while showing soft touch on floaters and runners around the paint.
He also hit 4-of-9 three-pointers on the night, none prettier than this “razzmatazz hop skiddily-doo” over James at the end of the first half.
Luka Doncic crosses up Lebron and hits the pullup three pic.twitter.com/N6QYw9ZXMb— Nick Angstadt (@NickVanExit) November 2, 2019
Luka was already on track to become an All-Star this season and a superstar in the league hierarchy before this night, but his national TV performance against James fully affirmed his status as one of basketball’s rising stars.
LeBron gave Luka the ultimate respect
How great is this?
The only way a game like that could end. LeBron dapping Luka and saying “you’re a bad motherfu***r” pic.twitter.com/i26iPJntTp— Kazeem Famuyide (@Kazeem) November 2, 2019
James told ESPN’s Doris Burke how much it meant to him to inspire a young Doncic even as he was growing up halfway across the world.
Incredible performances from aging and rising stars. A dramatic finish. Mutual respect earned and exchanged along the way. This is why we love the game.