Kidd: Suns will hunt Luka Doncic, “He’s got to participate. He’s got to play defense.”

Dallas Mavericks v Phoenix Suns - Game Two
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The Phoenix Suns targeted Luka Doncic 50 times in Game 2 according to former Mavericks front office man Haralabos Voulgaris. Whether that specific number is accurate or not is moot, the eye test showed Chris Paul and company hunted Doncic, dragging him into pick-and-rolls or isolations seemingly every trip down the court. It had the desired effect, Doncic wore down and was not the same player in the fourth quarter when the Suns pulled away to take a 2-0 series lead.

Doncic is going to see the same thing in Game 3. Jason Kidd knows it and said the MVP candidate has to rise to the level of the challenge, as Dirk Nowitzki did back in the day.

“He’s got to participate. He’s got to play defense. There’s no secret, they’re gonna put in in every pick-and-roll. They did the same thing with Dirk until Dirk participated and stuck up for himself. You can always ask for help, but you’ve got to participate and Luka has done that for us in this journey. And so he’s going to have to do it tonight. He’s going to have to defend. And, again, if they score they score. But we don’t want it to be on their arms. That’s the first step. And then the other thing is teammates have to do a better job of helping him.”

Phoenix isn’t targeting Doncic because he’s a lousy defender — he’s solid defensively because he is 6’8″ and plays with a high IQ — rather, the goal is to wear him down. Doncic has been the Mavericks’ offense in this series and when he faded from exhaustion in Game 2, so did Dallas.

There are things Dallas can do to limit Doncic’s exposure. For example, they can do more pre-screening. Kidd also can get Doncic a little more rest during the game and lean on Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie to create more offense — that duo needs to have better games at home.

However, as Voulgaris points out, the bigger problem for Doncic, Kidd and the Mavericks is that Phoenix is deeper and executing on a much higher level.

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.