Luka Doncic just prevailed in a duel with LeBron James and now he has back-to-back shootouts with Damian Lillard on the slate.
Two of the most dangerous shooters in the NBA will be firing away this weekend, beginning Saturday night when the Doncic-led Dallas Mavericks visit Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers.
Dallas has beaten Portland six straight times by an average of 25 points entering the two-game set. The finale is Sunday, also in Portland.
Doncic leads the NBA in scoring at 34.3 points per game and has tallied 40 or more points on nine occasions, including outings of 50, 51 and his career-best 60.
Lillard ranks ninth in scoring at 28.2 points and is coming off a 50-point effort in a 119-113 home loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was his 13th career 50-point output during the regular season.
Yet the Trail Blazers have lost a season-worst five straight games and 10 of their past 13.
“It was just a mentality thing,” Lillard said of dialing up 50 for the first time this season. “I got up from my nap and I knew how the game was going to come. … I’m a player when I feel my back is up against the wall, I feel one of my biggest strengths is answering the call.
“I came in not saying I was going to score 50 points but I knew I was going to impose myself. I just felt like that’s what kind of night it was.”
Meanwhile, Doncic was dealing dagger beams on Thursday night when the Mavericks recorded a 119-115 double-overtime road victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
He hit a tying 3-pointer with six seconds left in regulation and another with 47.8 seconds to play in the first overtime to keep the Mavericks alive. Dallas eventually prevailed to improve to 1-2 on a five-game road trip.
Doncic had 35 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists for his 10th triple-double of the season.
The most stunning detail of the night to Doncic was being singularly covered by Dennis Schroder in the final seconds of regulation.
“I was a little bit surprised,” Doncic said of not being double-teamed. “I don’t know why they didn’t. I thought they were going to foul, honestly, but I tried to get it up before they could foul.”
Teammate Christian Wood is in his first season with the Mavericks but is getting used to seeing the Luka show in action.
The 23-year-old Doncic has failed to score at least 20 points just once all season — that coming when he had 19 when ejected with two minutes left in the third quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Dec. 19.
While the Mavericks ascend, Portland is sliding in the competitive Western Conference.
Thursday’s loss to Cleveland was painful as the Trail Blazers never trailed until 4:40 remained on a night their star player was hotter than lava despite playing on two sore ankles.
Lillard, 32, was limping in the first quarter after a Cavaliers’ player landed on one of the ankles but just kept firing away. He feels the squad made progress despite blowing a 14-point lead.
“It was a game we deserved to win, we just came up short,” Lillard said. “I do think it was a step in the right direction in terms of how we played.”
–Field Level Media