Associated Press

Luka Doncic’s game-winning three, clutch baskets carry Dallas (VIDEO)

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Luka Doncic scored 29 points and hit the go-ahead 3-pointer to lead the Dallas Mavericks over the Minnesota Timberwolves 119-115 on Friday night, spoiling rookie coach Ryan Saunders’ home debut.

Doncic nearly recorded a triple-double, finishing with 12 assists and eight rebounds. He scored seven of Dallas’ final nine points.

Taj Gibson gave the Timberwolves the lead at 115-114 with a tip-in of Jeff Teague‘s miss with 35.7 seconds left. But with 22.9 to play, Doncic hit a pull-up 3 to put the Mavericks ahead for good.

Harrison Barnes scored 23 points and Dwight Powell made his first seven shots from the floor and finished with 15 points for the Mavericks. JJ Barea came off the bench to add 16 points.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 30 points and 11 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who were playing their first home game since Saunders was named interim coach.

Saunders, who received a loud ovation from the Target Center crowd before the game, took over as coach after Tom Thibodeau was relieved of his duties Sunday. he won his first game in charge Tuesday at Oklahoma City. Saunders is the son of the late Flip Saunders, the winningest coach in Timberwolves history. A banner hangs in the Target Center rafters in honor of Flip Saunders, who died in 2015.

Andrew Wiggins scored 17 points, while Josh Okogie scored 15 and hit a season-high four 3s for Minnesota.

Doncic had 15 of his 29 points in the first half to help the Mavericks take a 61-50 lead into halftime.

Dallas used a 17-4 run to open up a lead. Meanwhile, Minnesota shot just 36.4 percent from the floor in the first half.

 

LeBron James rallies Lakers in second half to beat Mavericks 114-103

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Lakers were stuck in neutral for most of the first half against Dallas. Then they ramped up their defense and rallied for a second win in as many nights, posting a 114-103 victory over the Mavericks on Friday night.

“From the second quarter on, our defense stepped up. We did a nice job of getting stops and getting out and running,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “We found our energy and were able to carry it on from there. It was ugly in the first. We weren’t able to get back in transition and had too many turnovers.”

Dallas shot 12 of 25 from the field in the first quarter and then shot just 36 percent (22 of 61) the rest of the game. The Lakers (13-9) had a 31-13 advantage in fast-break points and outscored the Mavericks 62-40 in the paint.

LeBron James missed five of six from the field in the first quarter before going 11 of 15 the rest of the way and finishing with 28 points.

“I knew what type of basketball I played in the first quarter and the result of that was us playing poor. I hit the reset button and knew I would be much better,” James said.

Brandon Ingram added 19 points and was lauded by Walton for holding Dallas rookie Luka Doncic to six points and 2 of 13 from the field.

“We tried to contest every shot that he took, whether it was going to the lane, midrange or 3-pointers,” Ingram said.

Kyle Kuzma added 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers. It’s the third time in five back-to-back sets this season that they have taken both games.

Los Angeles trailed for most of the first three quarters – and fell behind by as many as 15 in the second – before going on a 10-4 run the final three minutes of the third to take a 78-75 advantage into the fourth.

The Lakers were up 90-86 before taking control with a 15-3 run that included nine points by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Harrison Barnes led Dallas (10-10) with 29 points, and Dwight Powell added 17 off the bench.

Dallas was assessed four technical fouls in the game, including three in the fourth quarter. JJ Barea was ejected midway in the fourth after receiving his second technical.

“The combination of second shots and turnovers really hurt us in stretches in the second half,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “Our bad stretches were longer than our good stretches. It was a very disappointing loss.”

Dallas led 45-30 less than four minutes into the second quarter when the Lakers got back into it with 10 straight points, which included six by James. The Mavericks led 58-53 at halftime.

 

Luka Doncic leads Mavericks over short-handed Warriors 112-109

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DALLAS (AP) — Luka Doncic gave the Dallas Mavericks a glimpse of an exciting future – and extended a bad week for the Golden State Warriors.

The rookie scored 24 points, including a short jumper that put Dallas in front for good, and the Mavericks beat the Warriors 112-109 on Saturday night.

The 19-year-old from Slovenia arrived in the NBA having led Real Madrid to the 2018 Euro League title. On Saturday, he hit a 10-footer in the lane with 1:10 left to put Dallas up 109-108, then sealed the game with two free throws with seven seconds remaining.

“I’ve been doing this when I was in Madrid, too,” Doncic said. “I love the last-minute shot. (But) of course it’s different. It’s the NBA. It’s the best league in the world.”

Golden State played without injured starters Stephen Curry and Draymond Green and lost for the fourth time in six games. The Warriors dropped back-to-back games for the first time this season, and Saturday they led by eight points in the second half before the Mavs rallied.

Kevin Durant scored 32 points, but only three in the fourth quarter on 1-for-7 shooting. Klay Thompson added 22 for the two-time defending NBA champions. Durant missed two shots and Thompson one in the final minute, all of which could have either tied the game or put Golden State ahead.

“You don’t set NBA records being frustrated,” Thompson said. “I’m not going to go over here and dwell on missing a couple of shots, missing a game-tying shot this early in the season.”

Harrison Barnes had 23 points for the Mavericks, who have won four in a row. It was just the second time Dallas has beaten Golden State in their past 19 meetings, the other coming on Dec. 30, 2015 – one of only nine games the Warriors lost that regular season.

An 8-0 Mavs run early in the fourth quarter, capped by Dwight Powell‘s three-point play, gave Dallas its first lead since early in the third quarter, 93-92, with 9:18 to play. After Golden State surged ahead again, the Mavericks hung tough and Dorian Finney-Smith‘s fast-break layup put Dallas back up 107-106 with 1:45 remaining.

“Our guys worked incredibly hard to wear on them throughout the game and we made their shots a little more difficult,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “When you work as hard as we did, you get luck to go your way.”

In addition to missing Curry (left groin strain) and Green (right toe sprain) in the midst of this rough stretch, the Warriors are still trying to repair the bad feelings caused by Green’s dust-up Monday night with Durant and subsequent suspension.

“Just trying to move forward,” Durant said. “Are we going to talk about this the whole year? We just want to play ball. I know that’s all I want to do.”

 

Dirk Nowitzki likely to come off bench this season, coach Rick Carlisle says

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Dirk Nowitzki said something this summer rarely seen from future Hall of Famers who are the best player in their franchise’s history, he was willing to come off the bench.

It looks like Dallas coach Rick Carlisle is going to take Nowitzki up on that offer, reports Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

That might have been happening at the start of the season anyway, as Nowitzki’s injured ankle is not 100 percent and you can be sure the Mavericks are not going to push him.

Nowitzki off the bench just makes more sense for the Mavericks. DeAndre Jordan is the starting center, Harrison Barnes is really a four (56 percent of his minutes were at that spot last season), rookie Luka Doncic is a ball-handling three, Wesley Mathews is finally healthy and should be the two guard, and Dennis Smith Jr. is at the point.

Then the bench is a throwback to Mavericks favorites with Nowitzki, J.J. Barea, plus Yogi Ferrell, Dwight Powell, and Devin Harris.

Nowitzki is going to get the grand farewell tour this season, as he deserves. He’ll start a few games, particularly his final one at home. But for the team this season, which has dreams of a playoff spot (as long a shot as that may be in the West), this is the best move.

 

 

Three Things to Know: Raptors stave off creeping doubt

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) The Raptors got a much-needed win over the Celtics. Toronto had lost five of eight, including two straight – to the Celtics and Cavaliers, its chief competition in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors had been the East’s best team throughout the season. A “reset” offense and a deep bench seemingly had them poised for playoff success. But this late skid instilled plenty of doubt in a team that has disappointed annually in the postseason.

A 96-78 win over Boston ought to calm panic in Toronto.

This wasn’t the prettiest game, but the Raptors played with more purpose. They defended more aggressively, kept the ball moving and relied on balanced contributions. Kyle Lowry made a positive impact the day after his dud against Cleveland, which followed him going to San Antonio to watch Villanova win the national championship. The reserves came up big.

These weren’t necessarily the Celtics that Toronto would face in the postseason. Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Shane Larkin were out. Boston used 11 players through three quarters.

But that only increased the impetus for the Raptors to win.

They didn’t prove anything last night. This team can’t do that until the playoffs, anyway. But at least Toronto stopped the bleeding (of a boo-boo that probably looked worse than it actually was).

2) The Mavericks out-tanked the Magic. Dallas’ 105-100 loss to Orlando might wind up last night’s most significant game on the NBA’s long-term landscape. The defeat dropped the Mavericks (24-55) ahead of the Magic (24-54) in the tight tank race.

Dallas pulled out all the stops. Dennis Smith Jr., Harrison Barnes, Dwight Powell and Dirk Nowitzki – who all started the previous game – sat last night. Two-way player Johnathan Motley started and played 41 minutes. Aaron Harrison started and played 42 minutes. Kyle Collinsworth and Dorian Finney-Smith each played 35 minutes. Another two-way player, Jalen Jones, played 27 minutes. It’s as if the Mavericks were trying to overwhelm their already-overmatched players.

Orlando didn’t idly watch Dallas tank. The Magic rested Nikola Vucevic. Three starters – Aaron Gordon, D.J. Augustin and Bismack Biyombo – sat the entire fourth quarter. Jamel Artis played 32 minutes.

But Gordon (20 points in 26 minutes) did too much in his limited playing time and got the Magic the unneeded win.

3) The Spurs fell to the Lakers, but at least remain in playoff position. Last night’s games otherwise featured chalk between a team in the playoff race and a team not – 76ers over Pistons, Heat over Hawks, Pelicans over Grizzlies. But San Antonio fell to Los Angeles, 122-112, in overtime.

The Lakers, without their own draft picks this year, are still feisty. They’ve got nothing to tank for. Kyle Kuzma scored 30 points, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (21 points on nine shots) and Channing Frye (19 points on nine shots) were remarkably efficient.

The Spurs still haven’t clinched a playoff berth, so a loss to an eliminated team is a real letdown.

The Western Conference playoff-race standings now:

4. Utah Jazz (45-33)

5. Oklahoma City Thunder (45-34)

5. San Antonio Spurs (45-34)

7. Minnesota Timberwolves  (44-34)

7. New Orleans Pelicans (44-34)

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9. Denver Nuggets (43-35)

10. Los Angeles Clippers (42-36)

Tonight will feature a couple big games – Clippers at Jazz and Timberwolves at Nuggets.