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Luka Doncic Couldn’t Answer Damian Lillard’s Stepback Three As Portland Beat Dallas

The Blazers and Mavericks met on Sunday evening in Dallas for the first game of ESPN’s Valentine’s Day doubleheader, and while it looked for a bit like Portland would run away and hide, it came down to the final possessions late after a huge fourth quarter run by the Mavs to tie it up late.

It was the superstar duel everyone hoped to see between Luka Doncic and Damian Lillard on Sunday, with Doncic piling up 44 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds, including a big chunk in the Mavs’ fourth quarter run, while Lillard had 34 points and 11 assists as he continues to play sensational basketball to lead the shorthanded Blazers. When it came down to winning time, though, it was Lillard who had the answers late, while Doncic couldn’t quite answer.

After a beautiful Doncic feed to Dorian Finney-Smith for a corner three to tie the game at 116-116, Dame calmly stalked the ball up the floor and worked his way into a stepback three for the lead.

Doncic would get to the basket for a dunk to cut the lead to one, and Dallas opted not to foul with just a three-second differential on the clock and the Blazers were able to work free for a Derrick Jones Jr. dunk with just over six seconds to play to extend the lead back to three. On the Mavs’ final possession, Luka somehow worked himself wide open thanks to some Portland miscommunication, but simply couldn’t sink the open three from the wing to tie the game.

The win moves Portland to 16-10 on the season, holding onto their fifth position in the West ahead of the Spurs and just behind the Suns, both of whom likewise won on Sunday. The Mavs dropped to 13-15 with the loss, as they just can’t quite build consistent winning momentum despite the heroics of Doncic, as they dropped to 10th in the West — behind either Sacramento or Memphis, who play each other. It’s early to be too concerned about seeding, but in a West playoff race where things are so tightly bunched in the middle to bottom, Portland being able to win these games while dealing with injuries is so important. Dallas, meanwhile, can’t get any separation from the pack, and when we arrive at the latter stages of this season, that might doom them to a play-in fate when they had dreams of a top-6 seed entering this season.