Doncic scores 24 on return, Mavericks hold off Spurs 102-98

DALLAS (AP) — Luka Doncic barely missed a step and added a little Magic on his return to the Dallas lineup on Thursday night.

He had missed the previous four games because of a sprained right ankle. Doncic scored a game-high 24 points as the Mavericks beat the San Antonio Spurs 102-98. He finished with 10 rebounds and eight assists and barely missed adding to his NBA-leading total of eight triple doubles. He last had played on Dec. 14 against Miami.

Against San Antonio, Doncic played 32:39, about half a minute more than his season average.

“I’m not going to lie,” Doncic said. “I was pretty tired.”

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Tired or not, he impressed Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

“I hate to say this, he’s not Magic Johnson but it’s Magic Johnson-like in the sense that he sees the floor in that same way. He’s got a real intuitive sense and you can’t teach that. He’s just got it and he’s great at it. I’m not trying to put the Magic Johnson pressure on him, he’s not ready for that yet but he’s doing a hell of a job.”

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said that Doncic could have been even better.

“He had a few challenges early with rhythm and getting his legs under him. He got into a great flow as the game went on.”

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Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 17 points, Porzingis and Dorian Finney-Smith had 13 each, and Delon Wright added 12 off the bench for Dallas. Dwight Powell’s 11 points all came in the first half.

DeMar DeRozan led San Antonio with 21 points, 16 in the second half. Rudy Gay scored 18, LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 and White finished with 10.

San Antonio rallied from a 102-85 deficit by scoring the game’s final 13 points. After Doncic missed two free throws, the Spurs’ Derrick White missed a 3-point attempt with six seconds left and Doncic got the rebound.

The Mavericks led 79-74 after three quarters, and all but put the game away by making 7 of 9 3-point shots to start the fourth quarter.

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“They had their little barrage there when they made six in a row, and that was the game,” Popovich said.

Doncic didn’t make any of the seven in that barrage, but his presence was felt even then.

“He draws so much attention that he gets everybody else open,” Porzingis said. “We get good looks. It’s up to the rest of us to knock down the shots or make the next play.

“It was good to have him back.”

Doncic said his ankle was good.

“I’m going to keep icing it. I’m young. I just want to play. I don’t want to miss no games.”

The Mavericks (20-10) pulled within half a game of idle first-place Houston in the Southwest Division.

Dallas scored the first eight points, with 3-point shots by Finney-Smith and Hardaway bracketing Doncic’s first basket 1:23 into the game from short range.


Spurs: They made only one of six 3-point attempts (17 percent) in the first quarter. On a positive note, San Antonio held Dallas to 2 for 10 (20 percent) during that time. The second was even worse for the Spurs (1 for 8, 13 percent). They finished the game 8 for 29, 28 percent. … “Our best shooters (Bryn Forbes, Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli and Dejounte Murray) were 0 for 13, ” coach Gregg Popovich said. … C Jakob Poeltl entered the game as a 58 percent free-throw shooter but missed all four of his attempts in the third quarter.

Mavericks: G Seth Curry surprised Doncic and electrified the crowd with a behind-the-back bounce pass to Doncic for a dunk with 1:32 left in the first quarter. “I was so happy he made it,” a smiling Doncic said. “He gave me an open dunk. I don’t dunk a lot.” … Another crowd-pleasing play came in the third quarter, when Finney-Smith ran down the lane, grabbed a rebound in his right hand at the apex of his leap and slammed the ball through the net. … Dallas made only 8 of 25 field goal attempts (32 percent) in the first.


Spurs: Play Detroit on Saturday night in the first of a three-game homestand.

Mavericks: Begin a year-ending three-game trip on Saturday night at Golden State.