DALLAS - “It's a lot to ask of Luka,'' Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle says, "to put together 40-point stat-stuffer nights on a night-in, night-out basis. I feel like we’ve got to do some things to get other guys helping with carrying that load.”
What is that "something'' to lessen the load for Luka Doncic?
Dallas essentially has two choices: Change the roster. Or change the system.
To Carlisle's credit, he's acknowledging the problem... if the fact that Doncic just totaled 90 points in two games is a "problem.''
“Of course I’m concerned that the load he’s carrying is a difficult load to carry on a game-to-game basis,” Carlisle says.
So, the most immediate answer: “I’ve got to try to get some more balance in our attack,'' he says.
The challenge: That means asking the MVP candidate's supporting cast to do more offensively. But ... what if they're already doing about as much as they can?
Says Dorian Finney-Smith: “I guess guys can step up, but Luka is doing it all. Rebound, pass, he’s got the ball in his hands most of the time.
“I think we’ve got to do a good job, too, of making it easier for him.”
That's not Finney-Smith shirking responsibility; the fact is, when Dallas' four-game win streak came to an end on Sunday in a 121-118 home loss to the Blazers, Finney-Smith had his hands full, too, guarding Damian Lillard (who hit the game-winning shot on his way to 34 points and 11 assists) while making a big late-game shot of his own and totaling 14 points.
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While Doncic scored 44 points, to go along with nine assists and seven rebounds, Kristaps Porzingis finished the game as the Mavs' next highest scorer with 18 to team with Finney-Smith's 14 and Tim Hardaway Jr.'s 12 off the bench.
Is someone besides Luka supposed to take the ill-fated final shot from that game, a three that didn't go in? The Mavs don't concede that.
“I thought it was in, and it went in and out, and that’s on me,'' Doncic says. "I should have made that shot.”
Even Rick agrees, saying, “The 3-point shot that he had at the end was a good look. If he had that shot nine more times I think he makes it nine times in a row. ... That’s the guy we want to take it.”
The Mavs aren't a modest 13-15 (with a chance for a win on Wednesday when old friend Dennis Smith Jr., and the lowly Detroit Pistons are at the American Airlines Center) because Luka is asked to do too much. But being asked to carry this sort of load figures to wear him down. And 40 points a night? That's just not going to happen consistently.
So should Rick take the ball out of Luka's hands? Ask Jalen Brunson to shoot more? Alter Hardaway's position in the rotation? Demand that Porzingis score more efficiently and more often?
Truthfully ... haven't the Mavs already tried all of that?
Of the two options, as we are now well beyond the one-third mark of the season, the Mavs have already exhausted the "get-more-balance'' concept, exhausted it as Doncic figures to soon be exhausted. That leaves only the second option: As we are six weeks away from the NBA trade deadline, Carlisle's solution to getting somebody to lighten Luka's load might have to be getting somebody who isn't presently on this roster.
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