Blazers bracing for Doncic and Mavericks
PORTLAND, Oregon -- The Portland Trail Blazers have seen the future, and his name is Luka Doncic.
The Dallas Mavericks' 6-7 rookie forward from Slovenia will be in the lineup Sunday night when the Trail Blazers (18-14) play host to the Mavericks (15-16) at Moda Center.
The Trail Blazers got their fill of Doncic on Dec. 4 at American Airlines Center, when he scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds in Dallas' 111-102 victory.
Doncic, who leads NBA rookies in scoring (18.8) while also averaging 6.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists, is the leading candidate for the league's Rookie of the Year Award.
"I think he's the best rookie," Portland guard CJ McCollum said. "He's poised. He has good pace. He can shoot; he can pass. He's big; he's strong. He has been a professional for a long time."
Indeed, Doncic has been playing professionally since he was 14 and playing for Real Madrid in the Spanish League. He was an All-Euro League first-team selection and Most Valuable Player Award winner last season in leading Real Madrid to the championship.
Doncic, who won't turn 20 until Feb. 28, went for a season-high 32 points to go with five assists, four rebounds and four steals in a 125-121 loss to the L.A. Clippers at Staples Center on Thursday night. The only other teenager in NBA history to post those marks? LeBron James.
"We did some great things, especially in the second half," Doncic said of the Mavericks' performance against the Clippers. "We played great defense. If we play like this, we're going to win a lot of games."
Dallas' losing streak reached five games, however, after a 120-116 setback at Golden State Saturday night.
Portland enters the Mavericks game coming off its most one-sided home loss in 14 years, a 120-90 thumping by Utah on Friday. The Jazz knocked down 16 of 31 3-point shots in that one.
"Too many 3's allowed," Portland point guard Damian Lillard said. "The effort was there. We played hard, but we had too many miscommunications, too many letdowns on the defensive end. Their guys were slipping into open 3's."
Portland is now 12-5 at home this season.
All five starters scored in double figures for the Mavericks the last time they faced the Blazers.
"They played well," Lillard said. "They beat us on their home floor. We competed well, but they had a better night than we did. Now they have to come to our floor. Coming off a performance like (the one against Utah), one thing you can always count on is a team coming back much sharper and playing a better game."
McCollum said the drubbing by the Jazz will stick in the craw of the Blazers, who like the Mavericks are fighting for positioning in the tight Western Conference race.
"You never want to lose by 30 points, period, especially at home when you have a chance to make some separation in the West," McCollum said. "We have to learn from it and move forward and make sure it doesn't happen again."
Updated December 23, 2018