When  it came to describing Dallas Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic, Portland coach Chauncey Billups was propheticLuka.

Before Saturday’s game between the Mavs and Trail Blazers, Billups went on and on about the difficulties of trying to contain Doncic. It was as if he was discussing the difficulties of trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube.

“He’s the toughest cover,” Billups said of Doncic. “He’s the toughest cover in the league.

“You can prepare for scorers, prepare for bigs. He’s all of those things in one.”

Doncic was certainly “all of those things in one” Saturday as he collected 42 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in leading the Mavs to a hard-fought 117-112 triumph over the Blazers at American Airlines Center. In other words, Billups knows a tough matchup when he sees it, and he knows Doncic always brings an assortment of weapons to the table.

“He’s a tough prep and he keeps you up at night with some of the things he does out there,” Billups said. “But his usage, you know he’s going to have the ball the whole time — the whole shot clock pretty much.

“So yeah, he’s definitely a tough cover.”

Billups played in the NBA from 1997-2014 and won an NBA title with the Detroit Pistons in 2004, when he also was the Finals Most Valuable Player. Asked if Doncic reminds him of anybody he played with or against during his playing days, Billups said: “Obviously I would say LeBron (James), but he’s so much different than LeBron to me. I think he’s a better shooter.

“I think they see the game the same way and they play the game the same way. He doesn’t really remind me of any guys I played with.”

By halftime Saturday, Doncic had already contributed 22 points, six rebounds and six assists. and overall, Doncic joins Oscar Robertson (22), James Harden (16), Russell Westbrook (13) Wilt Chamberlain (seven) and LeBron James (six) as the only players to ever have at least four triple-doubles where they scored at least 40 points.

Luka“He’s just dynamic, man,” Billups said. “He’s a matchup nightmare (and) tough to prepare for. He doesn’t just score. He’s so smart. He’s so big, he sees over the double team.

“He’s one of those guys that you got to mix stuff up on him, figures you out pretty quick, but you’re just not going to stop a guy like that.”

The Blazers sure had a difficult time stopping Doncic, who had 34 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists after the third quarter.

“You can try to wear him down, try and change things up on him,” Billups said. “You’re not going to stop him.

“He’s one of those type of dudes. You’ve got to worry about not letting anybody else beat you though.”

BILLUPS A LONG-TIME FAN OF KIDD: When he was playing in the NBA, Portland coach Chauncey Billups was a huge fan of Jason Kidd, who is now the coach of the Mavs.

Since both men were point guards, they went toe-to-toe many of nights on the NBA stage.

“When I used to play against Jason, he was one of my favorite players (when I was) growing up watching him,” Billups said. “He was three or four years older than me.

“I almost went to Cal because of Jason. I just love him because he just made everybody so much better.”

Kidd was  a 6-4, 200-pound point guard and Billups was a 6-3, 210-pound playmaker. And they each led their teams to NBA titles — Billups in 2004 with the Detroit Pistons and Kidd in 2011 with the Mavs.

“In my prime and our primes playing against each other, it obviously was a physical matchup of two strong, big point guards, but more than anything it was just a chess match every time,” Billups said. “After that game, mentally you’re fried. It was one of the best matchups of my career.

“I see him doing the same thing as a coach as he was as a player. He has this quiet demeanor, and you always know he’s thinking. He’sLuka always thinking two steps ahead and is wondering what’s next.”

BRIEFLY: Forward Davis Bertans has yet to play this season due to a right knee effusion. Now he’s also battling something else. “He’s fighting with the flu, or a stomach upset,” coach Jason Kidd said. “He was scheduled to do some work on the floor this morning, but we pushed it back.”. .On trying to get Luka Doncic’s usage rate lowered, before Saturday’s game Kidd said: “He would love to play 48 minutes. It’s not just Luka, but how can we get help him take some of the stress away. He’s trying to put the team in position to win. We have to get others involved. We have a lot of wide open looks that we’re not making, so for him — and I’m speaking on my own opinion — is that he might feel like he has to do it himself. The greats have always thought that way. (Dirk Nowitzki) thought that way — the burgers (Nowitzki’s teammates) weren’t making shots that he was going to have to do it that night. That’s the competitor. Everyone wants to win. He wants to win, and so we all have to be better – coaches and his teammates.”. .Kidd said there was a chance the Mavs were going to give Doncic a rest night Saturday. But that may not come until either the front or back end of a back-to-back next week when the Mavs host the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday and the Houston Rockets on Wednesday. “We are having those conversation and he’s going to let me know when he

Lukawants to rest,” Kidd said. “But he feels great. He wants to help the team win, so being tired is a part of it. He’s one of the best players in the world and he’s getting to see — which is kind of cool — box and 1 (defense), triangle and 2 (defense), or whatever teams are doing. It’s just for him. You don’t see this around the league a lot, so it’s kind of a compliment of what he does on a nightly basis for us.”. .After he retired from the NBA in 2014, Portland coach Chauncey Billups said he wanted no parts of going into coaching. But in 2020-21 he became as assistant coach with the Los Angeles Clippers, and last season he became the head coach of the Trail Blazers. So what happened?  “Time happened, COVID happened,” Billups said, while smiling. “It’s funny. When I did (say I’d never get into coaching after retiring), I was focused on TV and possibly front office stuff. I got really far down the line with those things and I just started calling games. At first, I was doing the desk at ESPN, NBA Countdown stuff. Then, I started calling the games and when you call the games, you got to see the games a little differently to educate the fan base. It just started to open up the opportunity of even thinking about coaching. Great decision for me.”. .Mavericks’ radio play-by-play announcer Chuck Cooperstein was decked out in a 1980’s suit for Saturday’s throwback game – dubbed “Retroplex” night. But he also was wearing a protective boot on his right leg, which was because he is suffering from bone spurs that have inflamed his Achilles.

 Twitter: @DwainPrice


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