NBA: Doncic leads Mavs over Jazz, Harden injury fear for Nets

Luka Doncic spearheaded a superb offensive performance for the Dallas Mavericks.
Luka Doncic spearheaded a superb offensive performance for the Dallas Mavericks.PHOTO: REUTERS/USA TODAY SPORTS

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Luka Doncic scored 31 points as the Dallas Mavericks shrugged off the injury absence of Kristaps Porzingis to snap Utah's nine-game winning streak on Monday (April 5).

Slovenian star Doncic spearheaded a superb offensive performance for the Mavs in a dominant 111-103 victory over the Western Conference leaders, who had been chasing a 10th straight win.

Doncic's tally included six three-pointers, while the 22-year-old prodigy also hauled down nine rebounds with eight assists.

It was a hugely impressive fifth consecutive victory for the Mavs, who improved to 28-21 to remain in seventh place in the West.

Dallas had been jolted by confirmation just hours before tip-off that Porzingis would miss Monday's game with a sprained right wrist.

But the Mavs made light of the reshuffle with Dorian Finney-Smith weighing in with 23 points - including five from outside the arc - and Jalen Brunson adding 20 off the bench.

Josh Richardson finished with 17 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. 16 points.

Dallas steadily took control after edging into a 27-25 lead at the end of the first quarter, and pulled away decisively by outscoring the Jazz 37-27 in the third period.

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said his team had been determined to ask more questions of Utah after suffering a 120-101 defeat to the Western Conference pace-setters in January.

"The difference was we came out and were much more physical than the last time we played them," Carlisle said. "That was light years ago. We knew we had to play with a lot more presence tonight."

He singled out the performance of Finney-Smith, who is back at full fitness after missing nine games earlier this season after testing positive for Covid-19.

"He's such an important part of our team. We needed his defense, his rebounding and his scoring. He did everything tonight," Carlisle said.

Utah, who owns the league's best record with 38 wins against 12 defeats, saw star playmaker Donovan Mitchell effectively bottled up for long periods.

Mitchell finished with 16 points and four assists. Mike Conley led the Utah scorers with 28 points, while Bojan Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson had 16 apiece off the bench.

Elsewhere Monday, Kyrie Irving delivered a 40-point masterpiece as the Brooklyn Nets won a thriller against the New York Knicks in the "Battle of the Big Apple." A wild encounter saw the lead change hands 15 times, and Brooklyn clawed back a 14-point second quarter deficit to grab the win.

But the Nets' victory celebrations were muted by the early exit of star James Harden, who played just four minutes before leaving the game with tightness in his right hamstring.

The Nets are already without Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, Tyler Johnson and Landry Shamet.

Nets coach Steve Nash said the team had withdrawn Harden as a precaution, and said there was no indication yet of a long-term injury problem. A strength test carried out in the locker room had shown no sign of an injury, Nash added.

"There was just an awareness that something's not right in his hammy," Nash said. "His strength tests were normal.

"It's just something that we have to protect him. It's very frustrating for James but we can't risk it if we can afford not to. I thought the right decision was not to take any risks.

"He felt something so we're going to err on the side of caution. We don't have any indicator that it's a long-term thing," said Nash.

"We just have to proceed day by day and monitor and hopefully it's a short-term thing."

Irving's virtuoso display, meanwhile, received backing from Jeff Green with 23 points, while Joe Harris had 16 points. Alize Johnson also cracked double figures with 12 points from the bench.

Irving was relieved that a late-game turnover did not prove costly.

"Oh my goodness - I'm sorry for my fans at home, I'm sorry for my family, I've got to be better," Irving said, praising Brooklyn's resilience in battling back from a double-digit deficit.

"We just want to stick together," he said. "We've had injuries but we just want to keep playing hard."