NBA

Mavs coach Kidd on Doncic: 'He just gets better'

By Sports Desk February 18, 2022

Jason Kidd has run out of ways to describe Luka Doncic who, according to the Dallas Mavericks coach, "just gets better".

Doncic was at the top of his game on Thursday, as he scored 49 points in a 125-118 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.

The 22-year-old became the first player in NBA history to score 40+ points, have 15 or more rebounds, provide at least five assists, make five or more threes and have a plus-minus of +20 or better, all in a single game.

Doncic averages 27.5 points, 9.2 rebounds and 9.0 assists per game from 44 appearances this season, leading the Mavs in each of those categories.

"Luka set the tone early and often," Kidd told reporters. "We can sit here and talk about him all day. The things that he does on the court for himself and his team-mates are incredible.

"We've used every noun and adjective to describe his game. He just gets better."

Doncic's points tally was just two shy of the career-high 51 he set against the Los Angeles Clippers on February 10. 

The Slovenian has now had 45 points or higher in three of his last four games, but Doncic was actually underwhelmed by parts of his display.

"I didn't really notice, but my career-high in points [before] was about 44 or 45 points. I definitely felt good for two quarters, but the last quarter was just very bad," he said.

"There were too many bad shots, but we still got a win, so I'm happy."

Team-mate Maxi Kleber, however, did not share Doncic's frustration.

"What he's doing right now is unbelievable," Kleber said. "He's just gifted as a team-mate. It's fun to watch."

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    Domenico Tedesco refused to place the blame on any individual performance as Belgium slumped to Euro 2024 defeat against Slovakia, with Romelu Lukaku missing a host of chances.

    Ivan Schranz's seventh-minute finish in Frankfurt proved the difference on Monday as Slovakia stunned the world's third-best side in their tournament opener.

    Belgium forward Lukaku produced a profligate showing, spurning a pair of glorious first-half chances before seeing two goals disallowed by the VAR as Tedesco's side chased a late equaliser.

    Lukaku accumulated an expected goals (xG) tally of 0.82 throughout the Group E meeting, with that total far greater than the entire Slovakia team combined (0.59).

    Yet Tedesco, who suffered a first defeat in 15 games since replacing Roberto Martinez as Belgium boss, did not pinpoint specific players when discussing Belgium's downfall.

    "For me, it hurts a lot," Tedesco said. "I don't want to point the finger at people. You can be sure we will speak about many things but we will do it internally and not through the media.

    "I knew we would lose one day but unfortunately it was today. Honestly, there is not much I can say to the team to improve.

    "We created many chances, big chances. Of course, if we take one, then it makes the game easier."

    When pressed on Lukaku's form in front of goal, Tedesco defended the former Chelsea and Manchester United striker.

    "Romelu has been playing for Belgium for a long time," the Red Devils' head coach said. 

    "He knows how to score goals, I don't need to tell him that. He is a top-class player with great character."

    Lukaku saw his first effort ruled out for an offside after Amadou Onana's headed knockdown before his late finish was again overturned as Lois Openda was deemed to have handled in the build-up.

    "It's tough to speak," Tedesco continued. "If we had won I could tell you more about my opinion.

    "But we lost and I want to be seen as a fair manager so I don't say anything. We have to trust these guys. I trust the VAR. If they decide it's handball, we have to accept it."

    Belgium's defeat leaves Group E wide open after Romania hammered Ukraine 3-0 on the same day, with Tedesco's side needing a response against Edward Iordanescu's team on Saturday.

    Another loss would push Belgium further towards an unlikely group-stage exit, though Tedesco wants to use the Slovakia disappointment as motivation.

    "Naturally everyone is disappointed but you can harness that," he said. "You can make use of it. I always said our group would be very tricky and shouldn't assume that we will go through."

    Belgium captain Kevin De Bruyne was also frustrated as his side suffered their first group-stage defeat at the European Championship since losing 2-0 to Italy in 2016.

    The Manchester City star said: "It is a pity. The first 20 minutes we were really good and we made such a mistake for which we were punished.

    "In the second half it was better, we upped the tempo. We deserved to win but did not score and that is the way it is. Apart from a few other chances we didn't give much away.

    "We adjusted some things at half-time and then played well. We pushed, we created chances. We certainly deserved to at least a draw because we didn't play badly."

  • Keane backs Foden to deliver after criticism from England's Euro 2024 opener Keane backs Foden to deliver after criticism from England's Euro 2024 opener

    England must stick with Phil Foden despite an "off night" against Serbia in their Euro 2024 opener, according to Manchester United great Roy Keane.

    Foden created just one chance in Sunday's 1-0 victory as the Manchester City star moved to the left flank, making way to accommodate an attack of Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka and Harry Kane.

    The 24-year-old still managed 19 passes in the final third, only bettered by match-winning team-mate Jude Bellingham (24), but failed to register a single shot in an unusually quiet outing.

    Former United midfielder Keane has no doubts over Foden's ability, however, and lamented critics calling for his dropping from Gareth Southgate's starting XI.

    "This idea that you should start taking him out of the team, Phil Foden is an amazing, fantastic player who has had a great season," Keane said on ITV on Monday.

    "OK, he was quiet last night but he is entitled to an off night. Don't be writing this kid off. He has got so much talent. You stick with him.

    "You can talk about tactics and systems until the cows come home. Foden and these quality players will produce. He had a quiet night. Relax, everyone. He will be fine."

    Bellingham stole the show as his 13th-minute header from Saka's deflected right-wing cross proved the difference.

    Real Madrid's Champions League-winning midfielder also became the first player to score for the Three Lions at both the World Cup and European Championship while playing his club football outside of England.

    Kane was another to be kept quiet by Serbia, though the England captain had a late header expertly pushed away by Predrag Rajkovic.

    Keane insists Southgate's plethora of talent will always deliver in some form, though, whether it comes from Kane, Bellingham, Foden or any other player.

    "They have got to stay calm with it all," Keane added. "Because they have three or four world-class players, when Kane or Foden are having a bit of an off-night, players like Bellingham will step up.

    "It might be Foden or Kane in the next game. That is the beauty of having four or five world-class players."

    England head to Frankfurt on Thursday to face Denmark, aiming to extend their embryonic lead at the top of Group C before their final meeting with Slovenia.

  • Martinez dreaming big at Euro 2024 as Portugal boss defends Ronaldo inclusion Martinez dreaming big at Euro 2024 as Portugal boss defends Ronaldo inclusion

    Roberto Martinez is daring to dream as Portugal prepare to open their Euro 2024 campaign, where ageing star Cristiano Ronaldo has been selected "on merit".

    Portugal are the favourites to top Group F in Germany, opening their tournament against Czechia on Tuesday before facing Turkiye and Georgia.

    Martinez's side were the only team to win 100 per cent of their games in the qualifying campaign (10/10), while they also scored more goals than any other team (36).

    The former Belgium manager has major-tournament pedigree, too, guiding the Red Devils to third place at the 2018 World Cup and quarter-finals at Euro 2020.

    Going further on this occasion remains at the forefront of the Spaniard's mind.

    "We must believe, we need to dream big," the Portugal head coach said at Monday's pre-match press conference.

    "If we don't dream big, then it will be tough. But we also owe it to everyone to play well.

    "Tomorrow will be the right time to show that we're ready, that we can meet all the expectations. 

    "I brought seven shirts, not three. But now we need to put it all out there on the pitch for these first three matches."

    Portugal have the likes of Joao Felix, Diogo Jota and Goncalo Ramos to call upon in attack, though a familiar face remains in Ronaldo.

    The five-time Ballon d'Or winner holds the record for most games (25), most goals (14), joint-most assists on record (six – since 1972) and most editions with at least one goal (five) at the Euros.

    Indeed, since 1972, Ronaldo has scored/assisted twice as many goals as any other player at this tournament: 20 in total (14 goals, six assists). Michel Platini is second on 10 (nine goals, one assist).

    Ronaldo is also the European player with the most appearances at major tournaments, World Cup and Euros combined (47), therefore his inclusion is hardly a surprise.

     

    "Cristiano is in the national team on merit," Martinez added. "Nobody gets into the national team just by having a name.

    "Cristiano scored 51 goals in 50 games [for Al-Nassr last season].

    "For us he is a goalscorer, someone who can make that final move, someone who can really stretch defenders, really open spaces.

    "Obviously, over the years Cristiano has changed his way of playing slightly, but I can only say that Cristiano is in the national team on merit and the numbers are there to back that up."

    Ruben Dias says Ronaldo's influence spans further than his influence on the pitch, however.

    "I would say he represents inspiration, he represents that everything is possible, he represents that you can dream and you can achieve it," the Manchester City defender said.

    "It's obviously a pleasure to have him with us in this moment of his career. He represents to us that he really wants to win again and he's our captain and obviously we follow him to the end."

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