Luka Doncic continued to establish himself as a leading MVP candidate Saturday as the Dallas Mavericks routed the New Orleans Pelicans 130-84 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
The Mavs improved to 16-6 on the season with the win, which is good for second place in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, the Pels fell to 6-17 and remain near the bottom of the West.
Many circled their calendars for this game prior to the season since it was supposed to be a battle between Doncic and 2019 No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson, but with Zion still nursing a knee injury, the spotlight belonged solely to Doncic.
While veterans Jrue Holiday and J.J. Redick played well for New Orleans, the struggles of point guard Lonzo Ball contributed to the Pelicans' eighth consecutive loss.
Luka Doncic, G, DAL: 8-of-15 FG, 26 PTS, 9 AST, 6 REB
Kristaps Porzingis, F, DAL: 4-of-11 FG, 13 PTS, 6 REB
Tim Hardaway Jr., G, DAL: 5-of-10 FG, 14 PTS, 3 AST
Boban Marjanovic, C, DAL: 6-of-7 FG, 15 PTS, 16 REB
J.J. Redick, G, NO: 3-of-9 FG, 15 PTS
Jrue Holiday, G, NO: 7-of-15 FG, 14 PTS, 4 AST, 3 REB
Brandon Ingram, F, NO: 6-of-12 FG, 14 PTS, 4 REB
Lonzo Ball, G, NO: 1-of-9 FG, 2 PTS, 4 REB
Doncic Runs Roughshod Over Pels, Bolsters MVP Candidacy
Although nearly three-quarters of the 2019-20 NBA regular season remains, Saturday's performance was another example of why Doncic is one of the MVP front-runners.
The Pelicans had no answer for the Slovenian star, but that has been commonplace for Dallas' opponents this season.
With at least 20 points, five assists and five rebounds in 18 straight games, Doncic tied Michael Jordan for the post-merger record Saturday, per Bobby Karalla of the Mavs' official website:
Nearly everything Doncic tried offensively against New Orleans worked to perfection Saturday aside from his three-point stroke, as he went just 2-for-8 from deep:
Since his three-point shots weren't falling, Doncic got creative and beat the Pelicans in other ways. His passing was especially on point, as evidenced by his alley-oop to Tim Hardaway Jr. and his behind-the-back bounce pass to Dwight Powell:
Doncic also created his own offense with mid-range shots and drives to the basket, which were oftentimes uncontested:
If not for the fact that the Pelicans were up by 38 entering the fourth quarter—in part because of a 40-14 third quarter—Doncic likely would have put up even bigger numbers.
Instead, head coach Rick Carlisle opted to rest Doncic during the fourth quarter so bench guards Jalen Brunson, Delon Wright, Seth Curry, J.J. Barea and Courtney Lee could see additional action.
Big games are becoming old hat for Doncic, as he was averaging 30.3 points, 10.1 rebounds and 9.2 assists per contest entering the day, but perhaps the most impressive aspect of his day was the manner in which he got his teammates going.
The Mavs shot 53.5 percent from the field as a team, and if they continue to play that efficiently, they have a legitimate chance to be a championship threat in the Western Conference.
Dallas will go for six wins in a row Sunday when it hosts a struggling Sacramento Kings team that has lost five of its past six.
The Pelicans will look to get back on track and end their eight-game losing streak Monday when they host the Detroit Pistons.