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Three things to know: Luka Doncic just makes the game look easy

Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Clippers

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 23: Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts during the second half of a game against the LA Clippers at Staples Center on November 23, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

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LOS ANGELES — Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks going that make the NBA great.

1) Luka Doncic just makes the game look easy, returns to spark Mavericks win

It was his first game back after missing three because of left knee and ankle issues, and there was no way Eric Bledsoe was going to let Luka Doncic ease into the game and get comfortable. The Clippers’ guard — and every Clippers’ defender — bodied up Doncic, crowded him, and tried to throw him off.

It worked for a while, Doncic racked up some early fouls (and a technical for yelling “you’re too small” after he backed down Terance Mann and scored on him), and he had 11 points at the half with three assists. Doncic had not put his stamp on the game against a second-ranked Clippers defense, although it helped that Dallas missed its first 13 3-point attempts.

Then came the third quarter — Doncic had 15 points and hit 3-of-5 from deep, the Clippers started throwing doubles at him, and Doncic calmly moved the ball to the open man and trusted his teammates to do the work.

“Honestly, it’s easy. It’s just easy opportunities because of Luka,” Kristaps Porzingis said of having the All-NBA guard back on the floor. “When he’s out there, he just makes the game so much easier for everybody else. They have to double-team him, and we just make the next play.”

What was not easy was putting away the Clippers and getting the win.

Los Angeles’ offense was a mirror image of Dallas’ but with Paul George drawing the doubles — both men were getting doubled when they touched the ball, and both men made the right pass to the open man. The game became a battle of role players, and it looked like the Mavericks would win, in large part because Porzingis had 30 on the night, continuing his run of strong play.

With a minute left, Dallas was up eight and seemed in control. But then Luke Kennard drained a three, Mann stole the ball from Porzingis, Reggie Jackson hit a three for L.A. (after getting an offensive rebound), but it was still Dallas by two with 1.1 seconds left when George was forced to foul Maxi Kleber. Then Kleber only hit 1-of-2 from the stripe, giving Dallas a 3-point lead and the Clippers a chance to force overtime.

That’s when Paul George happened.

“George, one of the best players in the league, makes a tough shot,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said with a shrug after the game.

Dallas dominated the OT scoring the first 8 points, Porzingis scored six of them, Reggie Jackson somehow had two wedgies within minutes of each other, and the Mavericks got the 112-104 win.

After missing three games, Doncic needs to play himself back into shape — he admitted he was very tired after the game, having played 41 minutes — but he continues to torment the Clippers. He finished with 26 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, and was +7 on the night.

More importantly, if he keeps getting Porzingis playing this well off him, the Mavericks become a more dangerous team in the West.

2) No LeBron = another Lakers loss, this time to Knicks

One way to break down the Lakers season so far is that they are 5-3 when LeBron James plays, and now 4-7 when he does not (and a couple of those wins were a bit fortunate, coming in overtime).

LeBron was not in Madison Square Garden with his teammates Tuesday, serving a one-game suspension for a shot to the face of Detroit’s Isaiah Stewart. Without him the Lakers’ halfcourt offense stumbles, and with a roster shifted more toward older players who rely on their offense to impact games, the Lakers don’t have the defense to win grinding games.

New York beat Los Angeles 106-100, despite a 31-point triple-double from Russell Westbrook.

That leaves the Lakers at 9-10, with a -3.5 net rating, and they are mostly done with the home-heavy, soft part of their schedule. Things are only going to get tougher.

Which is why the whispers around the league of Frank Vogel coaching for his job are getting louder. Put simply, he is a defense-first coach handed an offense-first roster by GM LeBron James Rob Pelinka, and some are questioning the fit. Outside of Anthony Davis, the Lakers are short plus defenders now that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso and others have been swapped out for older, offense-first players. Vogel is being asked to become more of an offensive-minded coach, and there are questions if David Fizdale (on the Lakers’ staff and someone LeBron loved from Miami) or someone from the outside would be a better fit with this Lakers’ roster.

Or, maybe the Lakers just need to get LeBron healthy and on the court to win games. This isn’t a roster well constructed to win without him, no matter who sits in the big chair.

3) Giannis Antetokounmpo, don’t ever change

The best part of tonight? This Tweet from Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Most American-raised children know that is true before they start kindergarten, but for Antetokounmpo — who grew up poor in Greece — things we take for granted are revelations to him. His joy at life is refreshing and a reminder we should all live life a little more like that.

Highlight of the Night: Greg Brown III went between the legs on in-game dunk. Again.

During Summer League, Portland’s Greg Brown III went between the legs with the East Bay Dunk. It brought the house down.

Tuesday night against the Nuggets, he did it again — this time during an NBA game.

Last night’s scores:

Miami 100, Detroit 92
New York 106, LA Lakers 100
Portland 119, Denver 100
Dallas 112, LA Clippers 104 (OT)