NEW ORLEANS – Luka Doncic sure knows when and how to push the celebration button.
In one of the biggest drop-the-mic moments of his short, brilliant career, mere hours after the NBA chose Doncic as the Western Conference Player of the Month for his tremendous body of work in the months of October and November, he went out and showed a national television audience why he was the chosen one.
The second-year point guard poured in 33 points, pulled down a career-best 18 rebounds and distributed five assists in only 28 minutes as he helped orchestrate the Dallas Mavericks’ 118-97 triumph over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night before a crowd of 14,664 at Smoothie King Center.
All that was missing from Doncic’s bag of tricks was some confetti being tossed all around the Mavs’ bench.
The win was the eighth in the Mavs’ last nine games and pushed their record to 14-6. As they maintained the No. 4 seed in the West, the Mavs also swept this three-game road trip and are now an impressive 8-2 on the road after going 9-32 on the road last season.
Tuesday’s game was televised nationally on TNT, giving basketball aficionados a chance to see what all the fuss is about in regard to Doncic being one of the leading candidates to capture this year’s Most Valuable Player trophy.
And Doncic certainly didn’t disappoint as he scored 15 points and collected 10 rebounds – in the third quarter – when the Mavs grabbed this game totally by the throat. It was a fitting conclusion to an all-around special day for Doncic, who was 9-of-18 from the field, 5-of-12 from 3-point range and 10-of-13 from the charity stripe.
“I feel amazing,” said Doncic, referring to the prestigious award he received from the NBA. “The team congratulated me. I was happy to win that and happy for my teammates and my coaches. And I told them it wouldn’t have been possible without them, for sure.”
Meanwhile, the Mavs flew back to Dallas right after the game and will play the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. The Mavericks should have something left in the tank. Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Doncic all sat out the fourth quarter, thanks to the play of Seth Curry and the rest of the Mavs reserves.
Curry came off the bench with 12 of his season-high 19 points in the fourth quarter and Maxi Kleber added eight of his 12 points in the fourth quarter when the Mavs outscored the Pelicans, 34-22.
“I just kept to my routine and kept just trying to work to find shots,” said Curry, who was 4-of-5 from 3-point land in the fourth quarter. “I needed one of these nights, man, because it’s been awhile since I’ve had the hot hand.
“I kept sticking to it, I kept my confidence and found some good shots today.”
Even on a night when Porzingis couldn’t get his shots to find the basket, the Mavs still found a way to rack up their seventh win of the season by 14 or more points. Porzingis was just 2-of-11 from the field and also was whistled for four personal fouls and a technical foul while finishing with only seven points.
However, he made amends on the defensive side of the court as he collected four of his five blocks in the first quarter and had the Pelicans leery of going inside the paint once they became aware of his tall and lanky presence.
“They were just trying to get to the rim and I was there,” Porzingis said. “I was guarding (Jaxson) Hayes, he was around the rim all the time and I was able to just protect the rim.”
Early on, the Pelicans were having their way with the Mavs. The game was knotted at 24 apiece following the first quarter, but New Orleans opened the second period on an 11-0 run that buckled the Mavs’ knees.
However, Hardaway scored eight of his 12 points in the second quarter, Curry tallied six, J. J. Barea banged in consecutive 3-pointers, and Doncic added six points and the Mavs cruised to the dressing room nursing a 59-53 lead at the game’s midway point.
“We’re playing really well right now, especially defensively,” Porzingis sad. “Offensively, I was struggling a little bit, (but) my teammates got my back, and that’s it. We’re on a roll right now and we want to keep it going.”
Clearly, Doncnc is the head of the snake when it comes to the Mavs. But his teammates have been able to adequately fulfill their roles, as was the case again against the Pelicans, who missed 30 of 41 shots from beyond the 3-point arc.
“We just come together,” Doncic said. “We just keep playing and when we get down we stick together and just play basketball.”
As for those 18 boards he corralled, Doncic said: “I just felt like the ball was coming in my hands after every other shot they missed. I didn’t even know I had that many.”
In a way, it was as if Doncic had a vacuum cleaner on the court the way he was sucking in seemingly every other rebound.
“That’s a lot of rebounds for a point guard,” Carlisle said. “I don’t care what planet you’re from – that’s tremendous.
“You look at the plus/minus numbers — he was a plus 16 in 28 minutes. That’s a major impact. And then the bench did a tremendous job, especially in the fourth giving us a little more of a cushion and allowed us to finish the game and not have to put our starters back in.”
The Mavs bench outscored the Pelicans reserves, 53-28. Overall, it was a dominant performance by the Mavs, who converted 19-of-45 shots from 3-point range and flipped 11 New Orleans turnovers into 18 points.
“It’s good to get our second unit some confidence playing together on the road,” Curry said. “It was a good team win and we’re trying to keep it rolling. The exciting thing is we’re getting better and we’ve got a lot of room to improve.”
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