NBA Basketball

Doncic, Mavs visit frigid Detroit

Rookie sensation Luka Doncic led the Dallas Mavericks past the Detroit Pistons less than a week ago. He will try to duplicate that feat on Thursday when the Mavs visit frosty Detroit and its even colder NBA team.

Doncic racked up 32 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in a 106-101 home victory on Friday.

"He has a flair about him. He's an experienced player," Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. "He played a lot of games over in Europe, which counts to me. Lot of big-time players, lot of big-time games over there, so he's not your typical rookie.

"He's played at a high level, and that's a huge help to him. The Mavs knew what they were doing when they drafted him."

Technically, they didn't draft him. Atlanta selected him with the No. 3 overall pick and then forwarded him to Dallas in a draft-night trade.

Doncic, who produced 16 points and eight rebounds Wednesday in Dallas' 114-90 road win over the New York Knicks, has emerged as the clear-cut favorite for Rookie of the Year. He is averaging 20.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game.

"He came from a situation that may be a little bit unique for a rookie, as far as being a highly touted professional player at an extremely high level," Mavs center Dwight Powell told the team's website. "So we had some high hopes and expectations from him coming in.

"And in the summer and in the early parts of training camp we saw what we expected, and as the season progressed, I think we were impressed in his ability to maintain that high level of competition and production over the course of the first 50 games, because a lot of rookies hit that wall."

The Pistons have run into a wall of their own. Following a promising start, they have fallen apart over the past two months. They have lost 21 of their past 29 games.

Milwaukee completed a four-game sweep against its Central Division foe on Tuesday with a 115-105 triumph in Detroit.

Pistons owner Tom Gores, who lives in Southern California, said the front office is looking for ways to turn the season around.

"The front office is working on (potential trades), and we're always looking to improve, of course. We don't have any plans," he said. "There's nothing right there now for us, but we're always looking to improve, and the fact is we're not winning enough, so we have to do something. But at the same time, we have injuries. We have a lot of things going on."

Starting shooting guard Reggie Bullock missed Detroit's Tuesday game with a left ankle sprain. Backup point guard Ish Smith, the second unit's leader, has missed the past five games after aggravating an adductor injury that sidelined him for more than a month.

Dallas carries some momentum into the game. Doncic recorded his second triple-double (35 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) on Sunday against the Toronto Raptors, and another Maverick player notched one on Wednesday. Second-year guard Dennis Smith Jr. had 13 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds at New York.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle enjoyed the luxury of keeping his starters' minutes under control as his team took command in the third quarter. No member of the starting five played more than 29 minutes.

The Mavs will be greeted in Michigan by sub-zero temperatures.

"It's very cold right now in the Northeast and Midwest, so we'll have to bring our winter coats," Carlisle told Mavs.com.

--Field Level Media

Updated January 31, 2019

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