• Luka Doncic, just 19 years old and less than two months into his NBA career, already possesses a sense of pace and timing with the ball in his hands normally reserved for veterans. That’s no surprise. As the Portland Trail Blazers found out the hard way Tuesday night, though, the rookie also boasts a star’s sense of the moment when his team needs him most. Behind a filthy step-back three from Doncic that thwarted any remaining realistic hopes of a late-game comeback, the Dallas Mavericks beat the downtrodden Blazers 111-102, winning their eighth consecutive game at American Airlines Center.

    Doncic, to be clear, wasn’t quite so dominant as the adoring crowd’s roars suggested. He was mostly quiet in the first half, content to defer to teammates, but hardly due to any personal struggles – or, worse for the Blazers, stifling defense. Portland allowed 60 points in a depressingly familiar first half, offering only fleeting resistance to a Mavericks team that came out hungry for its ninth win in 11 games. Terry Stotts’ team was lackadaisical by contrast, consistently falling behind the point of attack defensively, leading to help rotation after help rotation that Dallas, pinging the ball all over the floor, exploited again and again.

    The Mavericks weren’t as sharp overall after halftime, but not nearly dull enough to relinquish a 15-point halftime lead. Portland amped up the intensity on both ends following intermission, especially late in the fourth quarter, quickly pulling within two possessions of a seemingly insurmountable lead before Doncic played hero. Damian Lillard, of course, fought to the final whistle to bring his team back, scoring 25 of his game-high 33 points in the second half by relentlessly attacking the rim and getting easy points at the free-throw line. He was just 2-of-8 from beyond the arc, though, suffering the same long-range labors that plagued his teammates en route to the Blazers’ 7-of-24 three-point shooting.

    If there’s a silver lining for Portland, it’s that the team didn’t quit despite multiple opportunities to do so throughout the course of the second half. The most obvious one came early in the fourth quarter, as the Blazers’ bench unit, thoroughly outplayed on Tuesday night like it’s been on so many occasions of late, fell victim to a 6-0 run that forced a timeout by Stotts barely a minute into the final stanza with is team suddenly trailing 92-73.

    But Lillard refused to go away quietly, slowly chipping away at Dallas’ lead as the fourth-quarter clock wound down. He scored 10 points in the last eight minutes of this game, bringing the Blazers to within six points by tipping in his own miss with just over a minute left to play. The stage was set for Doncic, unfortunately, and the rookie delivered the way he did the entire second half. He finished with 21 points, nine rebounds, and three assists on 6-of-14 shooting, putting a cherry on top of another impressive performance – and more importantly, another Mavericks win – with this pinpoint 70-foot throw to Dennis Smith for a soaring dunk.

    Dallas is legitimately good. Rick Carlisle‘s team, if healthy, will be in the cutthroat Western Conference playoff race all season long, which begs a question for Portland that’s as vexing as it is frustrating: Why did the Blazers, against a quality foe on the road, come out with less energy and engagement than their opponent yet again?

    This team isn’t talented enough to count on an induced sense of urgency to pull out wins after halftime. Portland knows it, too. Once the Blazers start playing that way, an optimists would say, will be a better indication of where they stand in a loaded Western Conference than Tuesday’s loss. Either way, though, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the real answer is unlikely to be a positive one.

Fantasy News

  • Hamidou Diallo - G - Oklahoma City Thunder

    Hamidou Diallo puts his stamp on the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest by beating Dennis Smith Jr., John Collins, and Miles Bridges.

    Diallo arguably delivered one of the greatest performances in Slam Dunk Contest history by jumping over the seven-footer Shaquille O'Neal and throwing down a vicious elbow dunk. He left the crowd mesmerized and gave them a moment to remember in an otherwise lopsided contest. As incredible he might be tonight, fantasy owners shouldn't really give him a look unless they're in deep leagues.

  • Joe Harris - G/F - Brooklyn Nets

    Joe Harris was scorching hot during the entirety of Saturday's 3-point shootout as he bested Stephen Curry with 26 made three-point shots in the final round.

    Harris put an end to Curry's storybook ending of winning the 3-point contest in his hometown of Charlotte by besting him and Buddy Hield. It's no surprise that Harris was a dark-horse candidate entering the contest since he's been hot all season long from behind the arc, making 47 percent of his shots. In the past week, Harris has been rewarding his owners with top-20 value with averages of 22.7 points with 4.7 threes per game on 67.6% shooting. If you could sell high on him, now would be the perfect time.

  • Jayson Tatum - F - Boston Celtics

    Jayson Tatum clinched the Taco Bell All-Star Skills Challenge by draining a half-court shot to beat Trae Young in the finals of the competition.

    Tatum sealed the deal in this one and is responsible for one of the most exciting finishes in Skills Challenge history. For the past month, Tatum has been posting Top-40 value with 16.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.1 blocks and shooting 46 percent from the field. He's currently cruising as an early-middle round guy and should be even better once the Celtics find their footing.

  • Jayson Tatum - F - Boston Celtics

    Jayson Tatum clinched the All-Star Skills Challenge by draining a half-court a half-court shot to beat Trae Young in the finals of the competition.

    Tatum sealed the deal on this one and is responsible for one of the most exciting finishes in Skills Challenge history. For the past month, Tatum has been posting Top-40 value with 16.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.1 blocks and shooting 46 percent from the field. He's currently cruising as a early-middle round guy and should be even better once the Celtics find their footing.

  • Hasheem Thabeet - C - Oklahoma City Thunder

    Hasheem Thabeet worked out for the Rockets, Raptors and Pistons while the teams were in Charlotte for All-Star weekend.

    Thabeet was the second overall pick in the 2009 draft by the Grizzlies and was quickly one of the biggest busts in NBA history. He was the highest overall pick to be sent to the then D-League until Anthony Bennett secured the top spot. Thabeet is somehow still only 31 years old, and 7'2" centers can certainly provide value in today's NBA, but it's unlikely Thabeet finds his way back into the league. He's currently playing in the Japanese B-League.

    Source: Keith Pompey on Twitter

  • Dirk Nowitzki - F - Dallas Mavericks

    Dirk Nowitzki said he has not made any final decision on if this is his last season.

    "I haven't said this will be it," Nowitzki said, "I'm going to wait and see the last couple of weeks, how my body feels and if I continue to see improvement and I'm still having fun, we'll see." While Dirk has been treating this season as a retirement tour, there's still a chance we see him playing next season.

    Source: Brad Townsend on Twitter

  • Anthony Davis - F/C - New Orleans Pelicans

    Anthony Davis (left shoulder contusion) said he is unsure if he will play in the All-Star game on Sunday.

    Davis said the plan is to play, but we will have to wait and see if he's feeling okay. He's certainly not worried about saving himself for the second-half of the season.

    Source: Tim Bontemps on Twitter

  • Kyrie Irving - G - Boston Celtics

    Kyrie Irving (right knee strain) says he is healthy and plans to play in Sunday's All-Star game.

    Irving missed the Celtics' last two games but fantasy owners shouldn't expect him to miss any more with the current injury. Terry Rozier was a hot pickup when Irving initially went down but now goes back to being a handcuff. Irving has put up top-10 per-game value this year with no holes in his fantasy game but he has already missed 11 games. He has missed at least 10 games in seven of his eight NBA seasons so this is something fantasy owners should already be used to.

    Source: Gary Washburn on Twitter

  • Anthony Davis - F/C - New Orleans Pelicans

    Anthony Davis said that the Celtics are on his list of preferred destinations.

    Moreover, Davis added "they were never not on my list," though he also confirmed that the initial reports of his list including the Knicks, Lakers, Clippers and Bucks were true. Initially it had been said that the Celtics are not a preferred landing spot, and Davis' dad would rather his son play elsewhere. It sounds like everything is on the table now that his push to end up on the Lakers has failed, as Davis also said "all 29 teams" (sorry New Orleans) are on his list. Get ready for more updates on AD's thoughts as the season rolls on.

    Source: Tim Bontemps on Twitter

  • Nikola Jokic - C - Denver Nuggets

    The Nuggets have agreed to extensions with president of basketball operations Tim Connelly and GM Arturas Karnisovas.

    The Nuggets haven't reached the playoffs in the last five seasons but will surely end that streak this year. Their abundance of talent and depth currently has them in second place in the Western Conference although Paul Millsap, Gary Harris, Will Barton and Isaiah Thomas have all been injured for much of the season. Their draft choices and player development over the years has been a big catalyst for this as one could look at Nikola Jokic and the breakout seasons of Jamal Murray, Torrey Craig, Monte Morris and Malik Beasley, all of them having been with Denver since their first day in the NBA.

    Source: Denver Post