‘Special’ Luka Doncic, Mavericks prepared for Pistons

The way Luka Doncic is playing against better opponents, it seems almost unfair to unleash the triple-double machine against the team with the NBA’s worst record.

The Dallas Mavericks superstar recorded his third 40-point triple-double of the season in a 116-113 win over defending champion Golden State on Tuesday. The Mavs travel to Detroit to face the downtrodden Pistons on Thursday.

Doncic piled up 41 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists and four steals for his 51st career triple-double. He tied Dirk Nowitzki for second place in franchise history with 20 career games of 40 or more points. Mark Aguirre is first with 22.

“I just participated and gave it everything I’ve got,” Doncic said. “I was really tired at the end — I’m not going to lie. I think we deserved this win.”

Doncic is averaging a league-leading 33.5 points to go with 8.8 rebounds and 8.6 assists despite being a marked man every game. With the loss of Jalen Brunson in free agency, the Mavs don’t have an obvious second option.

Spencer Dinwiddie is second on the team at 17.0 points per game. He was ejected in the fourth quarter against the Warriors when he was assessed a flagrant-2 foul for elbowing Jordan Poole in the face.

A Doncic basket gave Dallas a three-point lead and the Mavericks hung on as the Warriors’ Klay Thompson missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer in the final second.

“Look, he’s one of the best in the world, and that’s what he does,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said of Doncic. “I said this earlier, some of us in this room can take him for granted. The man is special, the guy loves competition. And when you have a triple-double like that it’s not easy because he’s marked once he pulls up in his car. You’re going to have a double team or they’re not going to let him play.”

Veteran guard Kemba Walker could make his Dallas debut on Thursday. Walker was waived by the Pistons after being acquired from New York in an offseason trade. Walker signed a one-year contract with the Mavericks on Tuesday.

The Pistons have won only five games this season and carry a three-game losing streak into the contest. They were demolished by the Knicks 140-110 on Tuesday.

That was their second home game after a lengthy six-game road trip.

“We contributed to some of (the Knicks’ hot shooting) with our soft defense,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “I think (Tuesday’s) game was a delayed reaction from the West Coast trip. I expected this game on Monday (against Cleveland). We came out with some fight. (Tuesday), we didn’t. They got a dunk on the first play of the game and it started from there. It was a stinker.”

With top player Cade Cunningham sidelined indefinitely due to a shin injury, the Pistons are finding it difficult to stay competitive. Several other key players have missed games due to injury, including Cunningham’s rookie backcourt partner Jaden Ivey. He also missed the Knicks game due to knee soreness.

Isaiah Stewart returned to action on Tuesday after missing seven games due to a toe injury and led the club with 19 points, including a career-best five 3-pointers. Reserve guard Alec Burks did not score in 15 minutes of action after contributing 16 or more points in the previous six games.