Rockets set to take crack at slowing down Luka Doncic, Mavs

With their destruction at the hands of Luka Doncic still fresh on their collective minds, the Rockets will face the Mavericks guard once again and must do so following another one of his eviscerations.

Doncic produced the first 60-point, 20-rebound triple-double in NBA history on Tuesday with 60 points, 21 boards and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ 126-121 overtime victory over the New York Knicks. It marked the Mavericks’ fourth consecutive win, and Doncic is averaging 41.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 9.8 assists during a run Dallas aims to extend against visiting Houston on Thursday.

Doncic recorded his second career 50-point game in Houston on Friday, totaling 50 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists in a 112-106 win that evened the season series at a game apiece. The teams will cap the series in Houston on Jan. 2 with their third meeting in 11 days.

Doncic joined Hall of Famers Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players with 50-point, 20-rebound triple-doubles. Philadelphia guard James Harden is the only other player with a 60-point triple-double. He accomplished the feat with the Rockets on Jan. 30, 2018.

“The history of the game is written by the players, and it was written again (Tuesday) for a player — Luka — doing something that’s never been done before,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said of Doncic, who set the franchise single-game scoring mark. “There’s been some great players before him. Elgin Baylor, Wilt, he was in that class and then he separated himself and made his own class, which is pretty cool.”

The recent rampage doesn’t bode well for the scuffling Rockets, against whom Doncic is averaging 28.2 points, 10.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists over 12 games in his career. Doncic did not play when the Rockets defeated the Mavericks 101-92 in Dallas on Nov. 16.

The Rockets had their hands full with the Boston Celtics’ tandem of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown on Tuesday in a 126-102 road loss. Tatum posted 38 points, eight rebounds and four assists; Brown had 39 points and three steals to send Houston to its sixth loss in seven games.

In ranking second to 76ers center Joel Embiid in scoring at 33.6 points per game, Doncic has clearly showcased an ability to dismantle any defense. But the Rockets’ season-long defensive woes — Houston entered Wednesday 28th in defensive rating at 115.4 points allowed per 100 possessions — certainly greases the skids for Doncic to continue his recent run of excellence.

For Houston, making the most of its day off on Wednesday would go a long way toward having more success against Doncic this time around. The Rockets’ loss in Boston was in the second game of a back-to-back and followed an impressive offensive effort in a win over the Chicago Bulls on Monday.

“We’ve got Luka next game again,” Rockets forward KJ Martin said. “I feel like we just played them three days ago. So get rest (Wednesday) and be ready to play another good team.”

–Field Level Media