DALLAS — Before heading to the All-Star game to play with his basketball idol, Luka Doncic returned from injury to test a pairing that’s a lot more important to the Dallas Mavericks sensation.
The 20-year-old Slovenian and fellow Euro star Kristaps Porzingis will want to keep this up after the break.
Doncic had 33 points and 12 rebounds after missing seven games with a sprained right ankle while Porzingis chipped in 27 points with 13 boards, leading the Mavericks to a 130-111 win over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.
An All-Star starter set to play for LeBron James’ team in his second season, Doncic added eight assists in the NBA triple-double leader’s final game before going to All-Star weekend in Chicago, where he also plans to play in the rising stars game.
Porzingis will be waiting when he gets back after thriving like rarely before in their first season together, and after the 7-foot-3 Latvian recorded a career-best three consecutive games with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds with Doncic out.
“It’s just getting better and better,” Doncic said of the pair playing together. “It’s good when we both have those nights.”
Buddy Hield scored 22 points and De’Aaron Fox added 16 for the Kings, who fell behind for good in the second quarter and were never closer than 11 points in the second half.
“For some reason, we didn’t feel the need to try to play much defense tonight,” coach Luke Walton said. “We couldn’t stop their top guys and when we did, it just didn’t feel like we had the passion and desire that it takes to win, especially on the road, in this league.”
Doncic didn’t need long to find a groove, scoring 17 points in the first half with eight rebounds and five assists, including a no-look pass in transition to Maxi Kleber for a dunk.
Porzingis, who had five assists and three blocks, was 11 of 16 from the field with an emphatic dunk in transition that pushed the Dallas lead past 20 for the first time at 89-68 late in the third quarter.
“The playmaking and the communication and the eye contact between them throughout the game offensively was fantastic,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “KP mixed rolls, pops. Luka was driving, stepping back. And they were playing great off each other. That’s a great thing to see, particularly headed into the break.”
It’s the second time Doncic has missed games with a sprained right ankle. He was out four games in December after getting hurt early in a loss to Miami, then re-injured the ankle in practice late last month.
“It was a quiet 33. It really was,” Carlisle said. “He really kept everyone involved and picked his spots and was very efficient with his field goal attempts. That’s the sign of a great player that can do that.”
Kent Bazemore scored 15 points and hit a 3-pointer that briefly put the Kings ahead in the second quarter after they trailed by 12 less than nine minutes into the game.