Dallas Mavericks

Luka leads Mavericks’ slump-snapping win in last game as a teenager

Watch Dirk and Luka receive big ovations before Rising Stars game

Watch the Spectrum Center crowd give Dallas Mavericks' legend Dirk Nowitzki and rookie Luka Doncic big ovations before Friday's Rising Stars game in Charlotte, N.C.
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Watch the Spectrum Center crowd give Dallas Mavericks' legend Dirk Nowitzki and rookie Luka Doncic big ovations before Friday's Rising Stars game in Charlotte, N.C.

No one handles the ball more than Luka Doncic.

So his turnover totals are never going to be spotless, whether he’s trying to thread the needle with a pass, catching a teammate off guard, or simply losing control of his dribble every now and then.

Doncic is averaging 80.4 touches per game, according to NBA.com advanced stats. Only 12 players are touching the ball more, including some of the biggest stars in the game: LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

So Doncic’s spate of turnovers in his past four games, including a season-high nine in Monday’s loss and seven, his second-most this season, Wednesday night in the Dallas Mavericks’ 110-101 win over the Indiana Pacers at American Airlines Center, needn’t raise too many alarms. After all, he turns 20 on Thursday.

The win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Mavs, including three consecutive losses since the All-Star break.

Doncic finished with a game-high 26 points on 9 of 16 shooting, with 10 rebounds and seven assists. He hit two deep 3-pointers in the final two minutes to ice the game and peg the Eastern Conference’s third-seeded team its second consecutive loss.

It was a gritty, all-around effort,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “Even teams without great records, they’re all battling. It’s a very good win against what happens to be a very good team in the East. The guys did a lot of good things.”

The game, which was tied at 53-53 at the half, stayed close until the final few minutes when the Mavs pulled away with deadly 3-point shooting.

Maxi Kleber hit a 3-pointer to push the Mavs’ lead to five with 4:35 remaining. He hit another with 3:15 left to push the lead to six.

Doncic made two 3s from way beind the arc and assisted Jalen Brunson’s 3-pointer to give Dallas an eight-point cushion with 1:03 remaining.

“I’ve gained more confidence and I just play as hard as I can,” said the rookie Brunson, who scored a career-high 24 points on 9 of 14 shooting, including 3 of 6 from the 3-point arc. The Mavs were 16 of 37 for 43.2 percent on 3-pointers.

“Obviously, Luka means a lot to this team, but I try and play pickup defense and stay available for my teammates. I’m there to play hard.”

“One word: Phenomenal,” Carlisle said of Doncic’s first 57 games as a teenager. “It’s been a quite an adventure with him.

“The amount of excitement, enthusiasm and interest that he’s generated and yet, I’ve said this many times, he’s not looking for attention. His place of sanctuary is the court. That’s where he’s comfortable. He loves to play.”

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Stefan Stevenson has been covering sports for the Star-Telegram since 1997. He spent five years covering TCU athletics, which included two BCS bowls, two trips to the college World Series and the move to the Big 12. He has covered the Texas Rangers since 2014 and started reporting on the Dallas Cowboys in 2016.

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