• 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

  • Luke Kornet - PF - New York Knicks

    According to Chris Haynes, the Knicks will not extend a qualifying offer to Luke Kornet.

    Kornet will hit unrestricted free agency and will likely only return to the Knicks if they miss out on big-time free agents. He has had some bright spots with the Knicks over the past two seasons, so he could garner interest once he hits the open market as a bench stretch-big.

    Source: Chris Haynes on Twitter

  • Emmanuel Mudiay - PG - New York Knicks

    Report: The Knicks will not extend a qualifying offer to Emmanuel Mudiay, which makes him an unrestricted free agent.

    Mudiay was the Knicks' starting point guard for a majority of last season when he was healthy, but since they acquired Dennis Smith Jr. and are pursuing big free agents this move makes sense. He will hit unrestricted free agency and should garner some interest being that he is a young athletic point guard who averaged 14.8 points on 44.6-percent shooting last season.

    Source: Chris Haynes on Twitter

  • DeMarcus Cousins - C - Golden State Warriors

    According to Marc Stein, the Knicks will extend a short-term offer to DeMarcus Cousins if they miss out on Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard.

    They have been planning for quite some time to pursue the big-time names, but will pursue some short-term deals like Cousins if they strike out. Cousins' offer would likely be a considerable one-year offer, while other free agents may get the same as the Knicks have two max spots.

    Source: Marc Stein on Twitter

  • Kevin Porter Jr. - PG-SG - Cleveland Cavaliers

    The Cleveland Cavaliers have announced that they have officially acquired the draft rights to Kevin Porter Jr.

    This trade was confirmed on draft night but it has now officially gone through. Porter Jr. figures to see opportunities off the bench as a score first guard for a Cleveland team in desperate need of bench production in his first season. He'll get his first look with his new team in Summer League.

    Source: Marc Stein on Twitter

  • Stanley Johnson - SF - New Orleans Pelicans

    The Pelicans have opted to not extend a qualifying offer to Stanley Johnson, making him an unrestricted free agent according to Shams Charania of the Athletic.

    This doesn't come as much of a surprise. Johnson struggled to make much of an impact both in Detroit and in New Orleans this season, despite possessing defensive upside that has been mired by his inconsistencies elsewhere throughout his career. He's still 23, and should find an offer elsewhere for next season. Wherever that may be, he will have a long way to go before he will become fantasy relevant.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Derrick Favors - PF - Utah Jazz

    According to Shams Charania of the Athletic, Derrick Favors will field calls from several interested teams and act as if he will be an unrestricted FA, a sign that he doesn't expect the Jazz to pick up his team option.

    Favors has gone on the record indicating that he'd love to return to Utah, but it appears that they are interested in allocating the 17 million he would have made, elsewhere. Favors has always struggled to maximize his fantasy potential playing next to Rudy Gobert, and perhaps a situation with a less clogged paint could do more for his value.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Thomas Bryant - C - Washington Wizards

    Thomas Bryant has been given a qualifying offer from the Wizards, making him a restricted free agent.

    Bryant surprised last season, coming from obscurity to finish with top-125/100 value (8/9-cat). That despite Scott Brooks toying with his minutes. If the Wizards can keep Bryant around last season's workload he'll easily be a steal in fantasy leagues, though we're obviously hoping he takes hold of the starting job.

    Source: Fred Katz on Twitter

  • Romeo Langford - PG - Boston Celtics

    The Celtics start Summer League practice this weekend but first-round pick Romeo Langford will not be cleared for full contact.

    Langford is recovering from right thumb surgery, which is not expected to have any significant long-term effects. This is just the Celtics taking it easy on their new rookie. Hopefully he's cleared before Summer League ends, otherwise we'll get our first look at him in preseason.

    Source: Adam Himmelsbach on Twitter

  • Enes Kanter - C - Trail Blazers

    The Blazers, Lakers and Celtics are among the teams that will be interested in free agent Enes Kanter, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

    Portland knows Kanter well and would surely like to have him back after his admirable work filling in for an injured Jusuf Nurkic, while playing through his own serious ailments, in the playoffs. The Celtics could use a ferocious rebounder to replace Aron Baynes and are barren at the center spot with Al Horford's departure, while the Lakers are lining up cost-effective depth with their roster almost completely empty. Kanter might not replicate his Knicks numbers, but he'll be a standard-league asset no matter where he lands.

    Source: Chris Haynes on Twitter

  • Cheick Diallo - PF - New Orleans Pelicans

    Cheick Diallo will be an unrestricted free agent after the Pelicans decided not to extend him a qualifying offer.

    Diallo has solid per-minute output but the playing time has never been there for him in New Orleans. He's got talent and good work ethic, but the league is flooded with available big men at the moment. Hopefully Diallo lands in a spot where he can continue his development.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter