fbpx
Skip to main content

Rockets face red-hot Luka Doncic, Mavs for third time in 11 days

Dec 31, 2022; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts after scoring a three point basket against the San Antonio Spurs during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to Dec. 23, Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic had recorded one 50-point game in his five-season career. In the five games played over the next eight days, Doncic has been on an offensive tear unlike anything ever witnessed in the history of the NBA.

The Houston Rockets will try to better cope with the red-hot Doncic when they host the Mavericks on Monday.

Doncic produced 51 points, six rebounds and nine assists in the Mavericks’ 126-125 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday for his third 50-point performance over his last five games. Doncic torched the Rockets for 50 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists two days before Christmas and demolished the New York Knicks with a historic 60-point, 21-rebound, 10-assist triple-double on Dec. 27.

Against the Spurs, Doncic shot 18 of 29, made 6 of 10 3-pointers and added four steals to lead the Mavericks to their sixth consecutive victory. He is averaging 42.2 points (on 58.7 percent shooting), 10.8 rebounds and 10.2 assists during the win streak.

“It’s incredible,” Mavericks forward Christian Wood said. “Since my seven years in the league, I’ve never seen anybody do what he is able to do. But he just has to keep it up.

“He’s on an incredible run. He’s playing like an MVP, clearly, one of the best players in the league and I’m happy for him.”

Doncic has playfully referenced his exhaustion during this stretch of extraordinary efforts, but there was a troubling truth behind the sheepish grin he offered when he said he needed a “recovery beer” following the overtime win over the Knicks.

Doncic is averaging just under 40 minutes per game during the win streak, and with the Mavericks missing Dorian Finney-Smith (groin) and Maxi Kleber (hamstring) from their rotation, Doncic is shouldering an even heavier workload than usual. He is third in the league in usage rate behind Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

At this moment, Doncic appears unstoppable. The question is, how long can he keep this going?

Coach Jason Kidd said the Mavericks understand “that we’ve got to get healthy soon, or we’re asking too much of Luka.”

The Rockets have been victimized by Doncic twice during his run of dominance, with Doncic adding a 35-point, 12-rebound, 13-assist triple-double on Dec. 29 to the 50-point display that ignited this stretch.

Houston has dropped eight of nine games since opening a seven-game homestand with consecutive victories over the Bucks and Phoenix Suns. Completing the season series against Dallas on Monday should provide some measure of relief for its beleaguered defense.

Houston owns a minus-10.5 net rating over the last nine games, the worst in the NBA, in large part because of a 118.1 defensive rating during that stretch that is 24th in the league.

The Rockets’ defense was relatively decent in their 108-88 home loss to the Knicks on Saturday, but it was another season-long bugaboo — turnovers — that greased the skids to their latest demise. The Rockets committed 25 turnovers against the Knicks.

“We’ve got to understand the importance of possession because when you turn it over 25 times and you (play) defense good like we did, you’re not going to get enough shots up to win the game,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. “Mathematically it’s impossible.”

–Field Level Media