Watch Doncic’s career-high 46 points out duel Zion’s career-high 36

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DALLAS — Luka Doncic couldn’t miss from 3-point range during a brief, sizzling stretch in the third quarter – the same way Zion Williamson was perfect the entire first half.

Dallas was just a little bit hotter overall.

Doncic scored a career-high 46 points, Kristaps Porzingis added 36 and the Mavericks overcame Williamson’s career-best 36 points in a 143-130 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.

Doncic, who also had 12 assists and eight rebounds, connected on three of four Dallas 3-pointers in just 93 seconds as the Mavericks made 13 of their first 15 shots in the third quarter. The Mavericks matched their season best with a fourth consecutive victory and beat the Pelicans for the fifth straight time.

Williamson set a New Orleans franchise record by making all 10 of his shots in the first half – including rim-rattling dunks on consecutive possessions – and finished 14 of 15. His only miss was a wide-open 3 early in the second half.

“Luka was phenomenal. (Porzingis) was phenomenal,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “Williamson was ridiculous. I mean, unbelievable, what he can do on the basketball floor. The ESPN crowd got a real treat tonight in terms of entertainment. But it was a pillow fight on defense.”

Brandon Ingram scored 30 for the Pelicans in what was supposed to be the second meeting with Dallas this season. The first, scheduled for Jan. 11, was postponed because of COVID-19 issues.

The Pelicans gave up a franchise-record 25 3-pointers for the second consecutive game. Chicago made 25 in its 129-116 victory two nights earlier.

New Orleans shot better than 50% (53%) for a sixth consecutive game, but gave up 58% shooting while allowing their most points since a 147-140 loss to Golden State in January 2019.

“It’s because we’re playing abhorrent defense,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Our defense is ridiculous. We tried everything tonight. Two games in a row like this is inexcusable for me as a coach and for the players it’s inexcusable.”

Porzingis, who finished three points shy of his most since coming to Dallas in the blockbuster trade with New York in 2019, set a career high for any half with six 3-pointers before halftime. Four of them came in the first five-plus minutes.

The 7-foot-3 Latvian was 8 of 13 from long range as Dallas shot 56% (25 of 45) from beyond the arc after coming in second-to-last in the NBA in 3-point percentage.

“Tonight was one of those games where things were just clicking for both of us,” Porzingis said. “He was finding me open on the 3-point line. It gives both of us energy and just builds the momentum for both of us and the team.”

Doncic, who tied his career high of 42 in a recent scoring showdown with Golden State star Stephen Curry, was 17 of 30 from the field, including 5 of 8 from 3, and went 7 of 9 on free throws. The Slovenian sensation, the third overall pick in the 2018 draft, has won both meetings with Williamson, the top choice from a year later.

“Sometimes the trust can be there and a team just hits tough shots,” Williamson said. “I think Luka went on a run there where he hit like four or five tough, contested 3-pointers. There’s not really a defensive scheme you can do there. That’s just a great player hitting tough shots.”

Josh Richardson, who had 11 points and six rebounds, hit the other 3 for Dallas’ first double-digit lead during Doncic’s hot streak from beyond the arc in the third quarter.

The Mavericks were up 108-104 early in the fourth when a dunk from Willie Cauley-Stein started a 15-4 run for a 123-108 lead. Tim Hardaway Jr. finished it with a 3-pointer.

Doncic tied a franchise record shared by Mark Aguirre (1983-84) and Dirk Nowitzki (2005-06) with his 13th consecutive game of at least 25 points. The 21-year-old has at least 10 assists in all seven of his career 40-point games. That’s the most such games to start a career in NBA history.

What will Rockets do at trade deadline? Send out Gordon? Bring in Collins?

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There’s a sense in league circles that this is the final season Houston will be okay with having one of the worst — as of today, the worst — record in the NBA. The Rockets hope to grab one of the big names at the top of the draft board this season, but they already have drafted Jalen Green at No. 2 (2021) and Jabari Smith Jr. at No. 3 (2022), plus made a draft night trade for Alperen Şengün (who is playing well). With cap space to spend and extensions coming up, the tanking days will be over.

How will that impact the Rockets at this trade deadline? Here are a few names to watch.

Kelly Iko at The Athletic reports the Rockets have interest in the Hawks’ John Collins and the sides have talked, but there is no real traction yet.

There has been nothing concrete from the Rockets — merely ideas floated by the Hawks to Houston among other teams — but the interest is real.

The Rockets could also be part of a larger, three-team trade to move Collins.

Eric Gordon remains on the trade block, as he has been for more than a year. Gordon has been frustrated waiting, but the Rockets have held out for what they thought was fair — a first-round pick — to no avail. That price likely comes down, and according to Iko at The Athletic, the front office is “more inclined to trade him now” than in the past, but the proof will be in a deal.

• Teams also are calling about K.J. Martin, according to Iko.

K.J. Martin, there continues to be interest in the 22-year-old combo forward who has been quite productive as a starter — averaging 14 points and seven rebounds on 35 percent shooting from 3 — but nothing concrete at this juncture in terms of offers on the table.

The Rockets like Martin, it’s going to take a serious offer to get them to consider it.

Knicks reportedly offered multiple first-round picks for OG Anunoby, got nowhere

Boston Celtics v Toronto Raptors
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What are the Toronto Raptors going to do at the trade deadline?

It’s less than two weeks before the trade deadline and the entire NBA is still asking that question, the Raptors are the one team that could turn this trade deadline from a dud to epic if they decide to pivot toward a rebuild. Are they willing to trade players like OG Anunoby or Pascal Siakam, or will they look to add a more traditional big man such as the Spurs’ Jakob Poeltl, who has been linked to the Raptors in rumors? Everything seems to be on the table.

Anunoby is a player a lot of teams covet, including New York. The Knicks reached out to the Raptors, reports Ian Begley of SNY.TV.

“And Anunoby with Toronto, I mean, that would cost you a lot. That would cost you significant draft compensation. Maybe the Knicks are there, maybe they’re feeling like they could make the playoffs and make a big push if you added in Anunoby. I know that we reported they contacted Toronto on Anunoby and I was told in that conversation they offered multiple firsts. But this was a while back… Toronto has done a lot since then. But I don’t think the league is crystal clear on what [the Raptors] want to do on Anunoby.”

Anunoby is an elite on-ball wing defender who can be a finisher, averaging 17.3 points and 5.6 rebounds a game at age 25 — the asking price will start at two unprotected first-round picks in this market. The Knicks may have thrown some of their protected picks in the conversation, but Toronto’s asking price is reportedly sky-high because they’re not eager to get rid of him.

Anunoby is making $17.4 million this season and is under contract for $18.2 million next season, a fair price for what he brings to the court (he has a player option at $19.9 million in 2024-25). What the Raptors do with him may signal their direction.

At the deadline, most people around the league expect Toronto to trade Gary Trent Jr., but that’s it. Any other big moves are likely this offseason. If ever.

Reprots: Luka Doncic day-to-day with “mild” ankle sprain

Washington Wizards v Dallas Mavericks
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While there are grades of ankle sprains, ask anyone trying to walk around on one if there is a “mild” version.

Yet that’s what Mavericks sources say about Luka Doncic’s ankle sprain suffered against the Suns on Thursday night. He is “day-to-day” with the injury, a story first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (and since confirmed by others).

Doncic has been playing through ankle soreness in recent weeks and it’s fair to expect the Mavericks to give him a few games off. However, it can’t be too many for a team fighting for a playoff spot, the Mavs are 0-5 in games Doncic has rested this season and have been outscored by 5.3 points per 100 possessions this season when he sits (although they did beat the Suns largely without him Thursday). Doncic is an All-Star starter averaging 33.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.6 assists a game.

Dallas plays next on Saturday against the Jazz. It would be a surprise to see Doncic suit up for that game.

https://twitter.com/CallieCaplan/status/1619016699289956353

Boban? Crowder? Holmgren? Exploring player votes for All-Star starters

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Four NBA players — not one as a joke, but four… as a joke — voted for injured Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren to start the NBA All-Star Game.

The NBA All-Star Game starters were announced Thursday, chosen from a weighted vote of fans (50%), media (25%) and current players (25%).

While most NBA players may take their All-Star Game starter votes seriously, some do not — they vote for friends, college teammates, guys with the same agent, or just whoever they feel like.

Which is comedy gold once we comb through the public vote (Note: names are not attached to who cast a vote, but we do see who got votes). This season, that list of players getting at least one vote to be an All-Star starter include:

Bol Bol (Orlando Magic, he got six votes)
Willy Hernangomez (New Orleans Pelicans, he got five votes)
Juancho Hernangomez (Toronto Raptors, he got three votes)
Omer Yurtseven (Miami Heat, he got three votes)
Georges Niang (Philadelphia 76ers, he got five votes)
Ochai Agbaji (Utah Jazz, he got four votes)
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Oklahoma City Thunder, he got three votes)
Bismack Biyombo (Phoenix Suns, he got three votes)
Jae Crowder (Phoenix Suns, he got two votes)
Udonis Haslem (Miami Heat, he got two votes)
Blake Griffin (Boston Celtics)
Boban Marjanovic (Houston Rockets)
Kemba Walker (Dallas Mavericks)
Kendrick Nunn (Los Angeles Lakers)
Ish Smith (Denver Nuggets)
Torrey Craig (Phoenix Suns)
Luka Garza (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Chimezie Metu (Sacramento Kings)
Furkan Korkmaz (Philadelphia 76ers)
R.J. Hampton (Orlando Magic)
Johnny Davis (Washington Wizards)
Cedi Osman (Cleveland Cavaliers)
MarJon Beauchamp (Milwaukee Bucks)
Paul Reed (Philadelphia 76ers)

That is just a fraction of the entire list.