DALLAS (Texas) • LeBron James drove for easy lay-ups or quick passes to open shooters at the three-point line early in the game in another meeting with Dallas star Luka Doncic.
Such was the gulf in performances between the duo that the 20-year-old Mavericks man played the last few minutes of the first half with a jersey he ripped into a V-neck look on a frustrating night against the player he admired when growing up.
James had 35 points and 16 rebounds, Kyle Kuzma scored a season-high 26 points starting in place of injured star Anthony Davis, and the Los Angeles Lakers went up big early in a 129-114 National Basketball Association away victory on Friday night.
Four-time Most Valuable Player James had either scored or assisted seven of the first nine baskets to help build a 22-point lead during the first half, while Doncic missed five free throws and ended up with a team-worst minus-24 in scoring margin before half-time.
Hence, the torn jersey.
"I played really bad," said Doncic, last season's Rookie of the Year.
"I felt like I don't know how to play basketball. It wasn't me. I gotta get better. A lot."
James was 14 of 25 from the field to help the Western Conference leaders (31-7) shoot 53 per cent, and his 16 rebounds were a season high in the Lakers' seventh straight win.
"It's not about how many you can win in a row," he said.
"It's just how you continue to get better every individual game and I thought we did that here."
Similarly flummoxed was Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, who was ejected after his second technical early in the fourth quarter. He exploded over the Lakers getting to challenge an out-of-bounds call after he thought the Mavericks had thrown the ball in.
Doncic led Dallas (23-15) with 25 points and 10 rebounds. But they trailed by double digits for all but the first five-plus minutes.
"Those are emotions and feelings that are about winning and losing," Carlisle said of Doncic's frustrations. "I get it. He's going through a lot this year. He's going through a lot of different situations."
Davis missed the first game of a back-to-back road trip after taking a nasty fall in a 117-87 win over the New York Knicks in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
An MRI exam showed no major concerns, although the forward was extremely sore.
Kuzma filled in just fine in his second start, scoring 11 points in the first quarter after totalling just 13 in the first three meetings with Dallas.
He ended up nine of 22 from the field, two of eight from long range.
Both leading men, James and Doncic, were without their star sidekicks as both fell short of a triple-double after they had one in the previous meeting in Dallas. They had seven assists apiece.
Mavericks forward Kristaps Porzingis has already been ruled out for the final two games of a six-game home stretch because of a sore right knee.