The Los Angeles Lakers’ title hopes may ultimately hinge on star LeBron James’ sleep patterns. When the four-time MVP is well-rested, the Lakers look like legitimate contenders.

James has scored at least 30 points in seven of his last 11 games for the Lakers, who begin a three-game road trip on Wednesday against the Dallas Mavericks.

Los Angeles has won two straight and five of seven with the reigning Western Conference player of the week leading the way.

James recorded his 101st career triple-double with 30 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in Sunday’s 106-94 win over the Orlando Magic. The 36-year-old credited a four-hour pregame nap for his latest outburst.

“The effort that he’s playing with, he’s inspiring our whole group,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Our team is playing extremely hard, defending and running the floor. We’re making strides playing extra-pass basketball. We’re still not quite where we need to be yet. But LeBron’s leading the charge in all those things.”

The Lakers have won nine of their last 12 meetings against Dallas, which could be without star guard Luka Doncic again on Wednesday.

Doncic, who is averaging 22.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 8.1 assists in 10 career games against the Lakers, has missed the last two games with left ankle soreness and is listed as day-to-day.

The Mavericks were 0-4 without their two-time All-Star before sweeping a back-to-back, concluding Saturday with a 120-96 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Monday.

Kristaps Porzingis had 24 points and 13 rebounds against the Hornets as Dallas won consecutive games for the first time since mid-November.

Porzingis also blocked five shots in the victory, which ended a five-game home losing streak for the Mavericks.

“He was great from the start on the defensive end, great on the help, protecting the rim,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. “And offensively, he let the game come to him. He was great.”

The Mavericks received a welcome spark from reserves Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Josh Green, who combined for 48 points off the bench.

“That second unit was great,” Kidd said. “Trey was at an all-time high for us. That group, they’ve been moving the ball. It’s just a matter of trusting and being unselfish and you can see that the way the ball’s moving.”

Dallas could be facing a short-handed Lakers team after guard Talen Horton-Tucker entered into the league’s health and safety protocols on Tuesday morning. And before the team hit the sack Tuesday night, Malik Monk and Dwight Howard had joined Horton-Tucker in protocols.

Los Angeles was forced to cancel practice Tuesday while the team took COVID tests.

Horton-Tucker, who has started the last six games, tallied 19 points and a career-high six steals in Sunday’s victory.

“He’s really coming along,” Vogel said. “The way he’s defending right now, the way he’s shooting it and shooting threes and the way he’s always a threat to knife through the defense and get a layup…those are attributes that we did see in him and why we invested in him and the role that we thought we would have for him.”

The Lakers are also monitoring the status of forward Anthony Davis, who has missed the last two games with soreness in his left knee.

Davis is averaging 24 points and 10.2 rebounds for Los Angeles, which has moved two games above .500 for the first time in four weeks.

–Field Level Media