NEW ORLEANS (AP) — As Luka Doncic finished fielding questions about his latest highlight-filled, high-scoring performance, a Dallas staff member told him to enjoy the All-Star break.
“No break,” Doncic responded.
Indeed, he’ll be busy during NBA All-Star weekend, and the panache with which he produced in New Orleans provided yet another example of why he belongs.
Doncic had 49 points and 15 rebounds and the Mavericks never trailed in a 125-118 victory over the Pelicans on Thursday night, their sixth victory in seven games.
“What he’s doing right now is unbelievable,” said Mavericks center Maxi Kleber, emphasizing that Doncic makes scoring 40 points look easy. “He’s just gifted as a teammate. It’s fun to watch.”
Doncic made four of his first five 3-point shots — sometimes skipping back to the defensive end in celebration as the net billowed from a long make — before finishing 7 of 14 from deep. He also had eight assists.
Dallas raced to a 45-27 lead after the first quarter, when Doncic scored 19 points and the Mavs combined to make nine of 12 3s.
“Luka set the tone early and often,” Mavs coach Jason Kidd said. “We can sit here and talk about him all day. The things that he does on the court for himself and his teammates is incredible.
“We’ve used every noun and adjective to describe his game,” Kidd added. “He just gets better.”
The Mavs took their first lead of 20 or more on another 3 by Davis Bertans on their first shot of the second period.
New Orleans methodically trimmed its deficit to single digits late in the second quarter but had trouble staying within 10 for much of the game.
Doncic pushed the Dallas lead back over 20 again in the third quarter with a sequence that had even New Orleans fans gasping in awe.
It started with a driving layup as he was fouled, followed by a 3 and capped by a driving dunk that gave him 20 points in the period and widened the Mavs’ lead to its largest of the night at 105-81 heading to the fourth.
“Sometimes it’s different when you’re playing away games,” Doncic said, noting that he heard the crowd reacting to his exploits. “First they’re booing and then they’re like, amazed.”
CJ McCollum scored 38 points, giving him four straight games with 20 or more, including three with at least 30, but the Pelicans fell to 1-4 since acquiring the star guard from Portland on Feb. 8.
“We have to get out with more sense of urgency at both ends of the floor,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “We’re still trying to figure things out, but it’s unacceptable. It’s unacceptable from me, number one, to allow our team to come out to a start like that. And our guys, they got to be better.”
McCollum scored 18 points in the fourth quarter on an array of 3s and driving floaters that helped the Pelicans trim their deficit down to just five at 118-113 with 3:36 to play. But Dallas responded with two straight baskets, starting with Doncic’s driving layup, to briefly stem the tide.
The Pelicans got as close as 122-118 when McCollum stole the ball from Doncic for an uncontested layup. But Jalen Brunson, who scored 23, hit two free throws with 28.7 seconds left and New Orleans did not threaten again.
Jonas Valanciunas had 16 points and 18 rebounds. Jaxson Hayes, who moved back into the starting lineup at power forward for the first time in five games, scored 18 points.
Kleber scored 20 points for the Mavs, who outshot the Pelicans 53.7% (44 of 82) to 50% (46 of 92). That marked the second time in two visits to New Orleans that Dallas shot at least that well, having shot a franchise-record 68.7% (57 of 83) in a 139-107 victory on Dec. 1.
Mavericks: Combined to make 19 of 40 3-pointers (47.5%) for the game. … Dorian Finney-Smith scored 14 points. … Reggie Bullock (left hip contusion), Trey Burke (left shoulder sprain) and Frank Ntilikina (left ankle soreness) all sat out. Bullock and Burke both were missing their second straight game. Ntilikina had played in Dallas’ previous contest. … Played their eighth game this season without trailing once.
Pelicans: Shot 12 of 28 (42.9%) from 3-point range. … Valanciunas’ double-double was his 35th this season. … Outscored Dallas 54-46 in the paint and converted 17 offensive rebounds into 25 second-chance points. … Brandon Ingram and Devonte’ Graham each scored 12 points and Tony Snell added 11.
Mavericks: At Utah on Friday, Feb. 25.
Pelicans: At Phoenix on Friday, Feb. 25.
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