When you think of great scoring machines, you think of NBA players who have piled up massive points but didn’t do a whole lot else.
Adrian Dantley, Alex English, Reggie Miller, Ray Allen.
All great players, but mostly just pure scorers, which is, after all, the object of the game.
Luka Dončić clearly is more than just a gifted scorer. He’s averaged better than eight rebounds and eight assists for his career and has 56 triple doubles.
He’s cut from a mold that emphasizes the total game.
Which is why it was so impressive watching him rack up 53 points on Monday against the Detroit Pistons.
He didn’t just score. He scored every way that you can score. Yes, he hit five three-pointers (in 11 tries) and he went to the free-throw line 18 times, making 14.
But he also made 12 shots from inside the arc, most of them inside the paint. And he did it on just 13 attempts.
It was the kind of performance that carries a team, which it did as the rest of his teammates could barely beat Luka on the scoreboard, 58-53.
“He’s tough,” Detroit coach Dwane Casey said. “He gets you inside with his body, scores, gets to the free-throw line. If not, he steps back and shoots a three. I thought we did as good a job as you can to make somebody else beat you.”
What’s been most impressive about this season as Luka has led the league most of the way in scoring (second currently at 33.4 behind Joel Embiid) is that he’s rendered pretty much every defense useless.
The double teams always come, sometimes early and sometimes after he tries to make his initial move.
He always seems to have an answer.
“Sometimes, you just got to accept the coverage when they are doubling,” he said after the Detroit game. “And, sometimes, before they go, just attack and attack the paint every time.”
Knowing when to go and when to pass out of the trap is key and, as San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said when the Mavericks visited the Spurs on New Year’s Eve: “We do the same thing (defensively) that everybody else has tried. And nothing works. He’s very special.”
Of course, it also requires execution from his teammates. And Dončić knows that. So does coach Jason Kidd, who treats the regular season much like a study hall for the playoffs, trying to find out what works and what doesn’t.
When Luka passes out of the double-team, a lot of different things can happen. Most of them are good, but not always.
“With the double-teams, we’ve seen it all season, (and guys have to know) where to be,” Kidd said. “And I thought we started to execute that better (in the second half against Detroit).”
Dončić, of course, will point to his two steals against the Pistons as critical numbers on his overall stat line. But when you score 53, everything else fades into the background.
And while the emphasis will be on defense going forward, as it always is with Kidd, the ability to score in bunches is going to be a necessity for these Mavericks.
“The rhythm of those shots, we just have to be consistent with it because we’re going to see that all year,” Kidd said of the double-teaming schemes. “Once we knock those down, our defense (tends to) pick up.”
10-day signee: The Mavericks made a roster move on Tuesday, signing forward Chris Silva to a 10-day contract.
The 6-8 Silva began the year with the G League’s College Park Skyhawks, where he averaged 14.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists. He went undrafted in 2019 and played with Miami on a two-way deal in 2019-20.
He’s appeared in 69 NBA games with Miami, Sacramento and Minnesota.
The Gabon native played four years at South Carolina and was a teammate of Mavericks’ two-way player A.J. Lawson. Silva was first team all-SEC in 2018 in addition to earning co-defensive player of the year honors that season.
Silva, the second player from Gabon (Stephane Lasme) to reach the NBA, will wear No. 30.
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