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The Rest Of The West Can't Feel Great Watching The New-Look Lakers Rally From 27 Down To Stun The Mavs

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This really was a must-have game for the Lakers to keep their recent momentum going. Really every single matchup from here on out has playoff-level stakes given where they are in the standings. Since revamping their roster around the NBA trade deadline, LA has won four of five, including Sunday's incredible comeback in Dallas.

It's nuts how close the playoff race is in the Western Conference, and for the longest time, it appeared as if the Lakers would waste the hell out of a mind-boggling 20th season for LeBron James and be a play-in team at best. Probably not even make it past that point.

However, the Purple and Gold wisely made some necessary transactions, acquired more firepower from the perimeter and surrounded LeBron and Anthony Davis with supporting players that better complemented their strengths. The Lakers now have much more versatility on the wing, far better 3-point shooting and overall depth. That's how they managed to weather an ice-cold shooting stretch to begin Sunday's contest, lock down defensively and grind out a victory.

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Dallas obviously made a massive move in trading for Kyrie Irving, whose ability to thrive in the clutch is often celebrated as one of his best attributes. NOT TODAY.

And Ric Bucher let Kyrie have it!

To be a little fair to Kyrie, he's human — or at least he presents himself as a humanoid. Sometimes I wonder. Anyway, not his fault that he didn't anticipate Year 20 LeBron still flying in out of nowhere to swat seemingly open dunks:

Kyrie and Luka Doncic are going to figure it out. This was a case of the Mavs getting complacent and taking their foot off the gas. It can be that…and, it can also be an impressive achievement for the Lake Show to do this on the road against an opponent fighting for playoff positioning.

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I can't wait to see how LeBron haters spin this one. "MJ would've never let his team trail by 27 in the first place!" I'm sure that'll be a popular take.

No but I'd say one of the bigger revelations of this game for the Lakers was Jarred Vanderbilt. 

The newly minted Laker is a phenomenal glue guy, a versatile defender and an efficient shooter who can get hustle buckets and be a major impact player down the stretch. I had the faintest idea of what his NBA career even was before he got traded to LA. What a freaking find.

Although Malik Beasley had an off day, he has one of the quickest catch-and-shoot releases I can recall seeing and is a real weapon from beyond the arc. He hit a key bucket in the fourth quarter when the Lakers really had to have it. Then you had Dennis Schroder post 16 points and eight assists, proving he can still be a key contributor in the backcourt and create offense on or off the ball.

Oh by the way, Austin Reaves ain't going anywhere either. Dude has taken a huge leap forward in his second NBA season and is averaging double figures. You gotta love the feistiness here:

This Lakers team seems a little pissed off like that and you love to see it. I think LeBron is tired of all the shit people are giving him. AD finally heard all the critics who thought he was soft or lacking a killer instinct. He's played like a man possessed this season when he's been healthy.

With Russell Westbrook safely out of the picture, it feels like the 2022-23 Lakers have discovered a second wind. You look at the top three teams in the West: Denver, Memphis and Sacramento. None of them have won much of anything of consequence. They aren't exactly experienced juggernauts.

Then you've got the Suns and Clippers, who have choked multiple times in recent years. We saw what happened to the Mavs in Sunday's collapse. No one can trust the Timberwolves with Karl-Anthony Towns still out, and even with him in the lineup? Meh. Utah is blowing everyone's minds by being anywhere near the play-in conversation. The Warriors don't have Steph, and the Pelicans don't have Zion.

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I don't know. Lots of game left.

Twitter @MattFitz_gerald/TikTok