Damian Lillard prevailed in the first round of the two-day heavyweight battle, but Luka Doncic surely will strive to have his own show-stopping performance in Sunday night’s rematch when the Portland Trail Blazers again host the Dallas Mavericks.
Portland rolled to a 136-119 win over the Mavericks on Saturday when Doncic never found his groove and was held to a season-low 15 points — 19 points below his season average. Lillard had 36 points and 10 assists as the Trail Blazers halted a season-worst five-game slide.
Doncic, the NBA scoring leader, was hounded into 7-of-19 shooting and missed all five 3-point attempts in Saturday’s game.
He also seemed a bit tired after playing a career-high 53 minutes in Thursday’s 119-115 double-overtime road win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
“No, that can’t be an excuse,” Doncic said after Saturday’s game. “We had one day to rest. We’ve got to be ready to go play the next game. I don’t think that was the case.”
Lillard made four 3-pointers as the Trail Blazers halted a six-game skid in the series against Dallas.
But he also was wary with a second dose of Doncic still to come — especially with the Dallas star likely motivated to make up for his shakiest outing of the season.
“That’s not a one-man job. Luka is a great player,” Lillard said of silencing Doncic. “He does the same thing to everybody. You know, he had a 60-point triple-double this year, he scores 40 seems like every night. It’s important we make it a team effort. We gave him a lot of attention and we sent two guys at him all night. And that can be exhausting to have two guys in your face and you have to be willing to trust your teammates.
“And I think we would rather lose to other guys getting shots than to him. It could be a different story (Sunday night).”
Lillard also moved into second place in Trail Blazers history with 4,939 career assists, passing Hall of Fame member Clyde Drexler (4,933). Portland’s all-time leader is Terry Porter with 5,319.
Jusuf Nurkic (22 points, 11 rebounds) and Anfernee Simons (21 points) also had strong outings for Portland, which owned a whopping 47-25 rebounding edge.
The victory was just the fourth in the past 14 games for the Trail Blazers.
“We needed it in the worst way. We let a lot of games slip lately,” Lillard said of the win. “We want to be one of those teams that stays in the mix. We want to be one of those playoff teams. This was important to us.”
Short-handed Dallas is 1-3 on a five-game road swing and played without big man Christian Wood (right ankle) on Saturday. Also, Tim Hardaway Jr. departed with a left ankle injury during Saturday’s game and his availability could be in question.
Other Dallas players who sat out Saturday were forwards Dorian Finney-Smith (adductor), Maxi Kleber (hamstring) and guard Josh Green (elbow).
The bright spot for the Mavericks was the play of Reggie Bullock, who scored a season-high 24 points on a career-best eight 3-pointers.
Bullock was just 11 of 41 (26.8) from 3-point range over the past eight games. He said a pep talk from Dallas coach Jason Kidd helped him rediscover his stroke.
“Just being able to talk to the coach and getting his advice and getting his confidence in me enabled me to go out and relax and shoot the ball,” Bullock said. “So just having that conversation with him, knowing how much he believed in me and how much the team believes in me to shoot the ball, I’ve just got to be aggressive with my shot.”
–Field Level Media