DALLAS – Luka Doncic continues to put his personal indelible stamp on the NBA. Unfortunately, despite a career milestone achieved by Doncic on Sunday night, the Dallas Mavericks didn’t have enough in the tank to overtake the Toronto Raptors.
Kawhi Leonard scored 33 points and Kyle Lowry added 19 and the fast-moving Raptors held on to defeat the Mavs, 123-120, before a sellout crowd of 20,308 at American Airlines Center. The loss snapped the Mavs’ two-game winning streak and dropped their record to 22-27.
It was a night where the Mavs wasted an impressive triple-double by Doncic, who collected a career-high 35 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists and was 14-of-24 from the field. This was the second triple-double in the past four games for Doncic as he became the first Mavs player with multiple triple-doubles in the same season since Jason Kidd had a pair of triple-doubles during the 2010-’11 season.
“It was special, for sure,” Doncic said of his triple-double. “It’s special, but it was more special to get a win.”
The Mavs didn’t walk away with a victory, because they gave up 70 massive points in the first half and an additional 38 more in the fourth quarter. And because they missed 11 free throws and couldn’t get any key stops down the stretch, the Mavs went 2-1 on this home stand before opening a three-game road trip on Wednesday against the New York Knicks.
“We scored enough points — 120 points is enough points to win an NBA game,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “But even a high-scoring team like Toronto, you’ve got to find a way to keep them somehow in the low hundreds and we just didn’t do it.
“If you dare a team like Toronto to get in a shootout, it’s a tough way to go. And in the end we just didn’t get there.”
With the second unit dazzling, the Mavs led, 92-85, following a bucket by rookie Jalen Brunson less than a minute into the fourth quarter. But Leonard poured in nine of his points in the fourth quarter – the same time Lowry popped in eight of his points – and the Mavs couldn’t piece together enough sustained drives when they needed them.
After Danny Green scored on a floater to put Toronto up 116-112, Harrison Barnes misfired on a pair of free throws with 1:20 left in the game. Leonard then darted in the land and scored, Doncic turned it over, and a free throw by Leonard padded the Raptors’ lead to 119-112 with 32 seconds remaining.
It was a crushing loss for the Mavs, who trailed 70-58 in a first half that saw their defense totally disappear. Then, after outscoring Toronto 30-15 in the third quarter to gain some traction and get the crowd in the game, the Mavs’ defense disappeared again in the final stanza.
“Unfortunately, the fourth (quarter) looked more like the first half,” Carlisle said. “Our defense has got to be more consistent from start to finish – it’s pretty clear.
“(Allowing) 70 in the first half is way too many. We talked about it at halftime. Some of it was turnovers, some of it was not getting back quickly enough in transition, some of it was two or three offensive rebounding plays where we didn’t quite get the rebound and they grabbed it and throw to a guy for a three.”
Carlisle, though, explained that some of what got the Mavs in dire straits against the Raptors’ zone is because of him.
“Down the stretch we didn’t do a good job against their zone – that’s on me, that’s total a coaching thing,” Carlisle said. “I’ve got to do a better job of preparing these guys.
“That’s on me, so I take responsibility for the loss. Look, it’s 48 minutes and you’ve got be better from start to finish. Simple as that.”
Dennis Smith Jr. contributed eight points and a pair of assists in the first quarter, but the Mavs still trailed, 38-32, when the period ended. Doncic, meanwhile, was throwing lob dunks to practically everyone wearing a Mavs uniform as he put the team on his back and dragged the Mavs back in the game.
“It just shows you what he can do,” said Smith, who collected 13 points and six assists. “He makes an impact on multiple areas of the game and we need that. We definitely need that.”
Also for the Mavs, Barnes finished with 14 points and six rebounds, Dorian Finney-Smith contributed 13 points and five rebounds, Wesley Matthews tallied half of his 12 points in the first quarter, and DeAndre Jordan added 11 points and nine boards.
In the meantime, the fact that Doncic was having a career-day against Leonard makes his performance even more impressive. That’s because Leonard will be starting in next month’s All-Star game and is considered one of the game’s premier defenders.
“You just got to be careful, because he’s a really good defender,” Doncic said. “He’s a great competitor. He’s one of the best in the league.”
Doncic negotiated an alley-oop dunk to Dwight Powell in the third quarter and the two connected for two more alley-oop dunks in the fourth quarter. This practically went on all night as Doncic has proven that he has amazing vision to go with his pinpoint passes.
“I love the way we charged back in the third,” Carlisle said. “The starters got us off to a great start — the bench — I think we got it up to a seven-point lead.
“There were a couple of untimely threes that we gave up. Then you’re leaving a lot to chance down the stretch.”
Those 11 missed free throws also left a lot to chance.
“We’ve got to do a better job there, and we will,” Carlisle said after his team went 23-of-34 from the line. We’ll work on it tomorrow.
“It’s just something we’ve got to stay with and we’ve got to keep preaching repetition, routine process, trusting your routine. We certainly have guys that are capable of making free throw. It’s been an uncharacteristic thing.”
An uncharacteristic thing that proved critical in this game.
“We believe we can beat anybody,” Smith said. “There no moral victories. We lost the game.”
NOTES: Luka Doncic is the first teenager in NBA history to record multiple triple-doubles. According to Elias Sports Bureau, he also is the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double that included 30 points. Doncic was 19 years and 333 days on Sunday. LeBron James was 20 years and 100 days old when he had 40 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists against Milwaukee on Apr. 9, 2005. And D’Aaron Fox was 20 years and 316 days old when he recorded 31 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists against Atlanta on Nov. 1, 2018. . .In addition to the 35 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists Doncic had against the Raptors, he had 18 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in a Jan. 21 game at Milwaukee. . .Wesley Matthews picked up his 1,500 career 3-pointer when he drilled a trey with 5:36 remaining in the first quarter. Matthews is the 31st player in NBA history to reach this milestone, and is the first undrafted player with at least 1,500 made 3-pointers.