Short-handed Blazers keying on Doncic as Mavs visit
The Trail Blazers know who will be the target of their defensive focus when they play host to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night.
Portland forward Al-Farouq Aminu calls the Mavericks' Luka Doncic the "front-runner for Rookie of the Year," but it's beyond that. The 20-year-old Slovenian is a lock to win the NBA's rookie award as he leads the league's first-year players in scoring (21.0) and is second in rebounds (7.5) and assists (5.8).
The 6-foot-7 Doncic has averaged 24 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists in three games against the Blazers this season, helping the Mavericks to two wins.
"He has played really well against us," said Aminu, who is likely to draw the first defensive assignment on Doncic. "He's crafty. The European-style game has served him well. He was able to come in and transition seamlessly to the NBA.
"We've done a pretty good job on him (defensively) each time we played them, but he's still gotten his numbers."
The Mavericks (28-42) beat the Blazers 111-102 in Dallas on Dec. 4, with Doncic going for 21 points and nine rebounds and sinking a crucial baseline jumper in the final minute to clinch the win. The Blazers pulled out a 121-118 victory in overtime in Portland on Dec 23, a game in which Damian Lillard had 33 points and seven assists but Doncic also contributed 23 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.
In the last meeting on Feb. 10 in Dallas, Doncic collected 28 points, nine boards and six assists, and the Mavericks outscored the Blazers 24-9 in the fourth quarter of a 102-101 Dallas triumph.
"They've given us trouble this season," Lillard said. "We're going to have our hands full."
Doncic had his fifth triple-double of the campaign in a 129-125 overtime loss to New Orleans on Monday with 29 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
"He continues to play like a seasoned veteran, and an All-Star at that," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said.
The Blazers (43-27) will be playing their second game without starting shooting guard CJ McCollum, who strained his left knee in a loss at San Antonio on Saturday. McCollum's knee will be re-evaluated in a week.
"I'll take it day to day, do rehab and do what (medical staffers) tell me to do," McCollum said. "I don't have a timeline I'm going to give (the media). Hopefully I can be back sooner than later. My goal is to come back when I'm healthy.
"I don't like to miss games, but I have to do what's best for my health. Doctors will sign off when I'm ready."
Jake Layman started at shooting guard in a 106-98 win over Indiana on Monday, but Portland coach Terry Stotts said he will rely on feel and matchups in determining who gets additional playing time in McCollum's absence.
"That's 34 minutes a game to be spread around," Stotts said. "I would expect the minutes of Seth (Curry), Jake and Rodney (Hood) to be up a little bit."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 19, 2019