Luka Doncic Drops 31 in Duel with Bradley Beal as Mavericks Fall to Wizards

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMarch 7, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC -  MARCH 6:  Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks handles the ball against the Washington Wizards on March 6, 2019 at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

The Washington Wizards defeated the Dallas Mavericks 132-123 Wednesday at Capital One Arena, bolstering their hopes of sneaking into the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Washington is now 3-1 in its last four contests and entered play three games back of the No. 8 seed in the East. Dallas is just playing out the string at this point and fell to an ugly 1-8 in its last nine games.

Bradley Beal led the way with 30 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, while Jabari Parker (20 points and nine rebounds), Trevor Ariza (22 points and six rebounds) and Tomas Satoransky (14 points, 11 assists and eight boards) provided support.

Luka Doncic stuffed the stat sheet for the Mavericks in defeat with 31 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and four steals.

          

ROY Pressure from Trae Young Will Bring Out Best in Luka

The Mavericks have not been realistic contenders in a season that is primarily about Doncic gathering experience and a potential send-off for Dirk Nowitzki, so the former has not faced much night-to-night pressure at the NBA level yet.

That is changing thanks to a recent resurgence from Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young, who will forever be linked to Doncic after a 2018 draft-day trade brought them to their respective teams.

Young scored 23 or more points in six of his last eight games, including a 49-point showing against the Chicago Bulls. While Doncic—who entered play averaging 20.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists a night behind 35.0 percent shooting from deep—has seemingly had the Rookie of the Year trophy locked up for some time, Young has at least put pressure on him entering the stretch run.

There is still no reason to doubt the Mavericks star, especially after his showing against the Wizards.

Doncic's stats underscore his ability to impact the game in a number of ways as someone who can hit from three-point range, attack the basket with an innate understanding of angles and a dangerous hesitation move, battle for rebounds from the backcourt, and set up his teammates when the defense collapses on him.

He has already drawn some head-turning comparisons, with Dwyane Wade saying his passing is "LeBron James-like from the standpoint of how he's able to rope that pass to shooters in corners, getting blitzed," per Tim Cato of The Athletic.

Young even suggested he and Doncic can be "Like Magic and Bird...it can be something like that where we both can be great," while appearing on The Ringer's Winging It podcast with Vince Carter, Kent Bazemore and Annie Finberg.

This may be the first semblance of true NBA pressure Doncic has faced, but he earned those comparisons for a reason. He has also performed under the bright lights in the recent past as a Euroleague MVP and champion by the time he was 19 years old.

That experience playing overseas left him more ready to compete against professionals than many of his collegiate peers, and he didn't look like someone who was wilting under pressure when he darted through Washington's defense, competed on the boards like a big and even threw down a monster jam in the first quarter.

Doncic has thrived all season as the focal point of the Mavericks offense and the one opponents send their best defenders at on a nightly basis. He also isn't facing a particularly challenging schedule down the stretch, with Tankathon ranking it as the 15th-most difficult one in the league.

Doncic will still win the Rookie of the Year, and the additional pressure brought on by Young's recent stretch will only serve to benefit him and the Mavericks in the long run when Kristaps Porzingis returns to health and the team is set to compete in the Western Conference.

At that point, Doncic will have a Euroleague championship, Euroleague MVP and NBA Rookie of the Year on his resume and be ready to make the postseason for the first time.

             

What's Next?

Both teams are on the road Friday, with the Wizards facing the Charlotte Hornets and the Mavericks playing the Orlando Magic.

Related

    Steph Says He May Support Seth as a Virtual Fan

    Dallas Mavericks logo
    Dallas Mavericks

    Steph Says He May Support Seth as a Virtual Fan

    Paul Kasabian
    via Bleacher Report

    Pelicans Resting Zion Tonight

    Zion will sit out vs. Wizards to rest on second night of back-to-back

    NBA logo
    NBA

    Pelicans Resting Zion Tonight

    Joseph Zucker
    via Bleacher Report

    Cousins Discusses Injury Rehab, NBA Restart Bubble, Playing in Finals

    NBA logo
    NBA

    Cousins Discusses Injury Rehab, NBA Restart Bubble, Playing in Finals

    Tyler Conway
    via Bleacher Report

    Best Free-Agent Signings of the Decade 🤩

    Looking back at the most successful signing every team made from 2010-19

    Dallas Mavericks logo
    Dallas Mavericks

    Best Free-Agent Signings of the Decade 🤩

    Greg Swartz
    via Bleacher Report