Two of NBA’s best young stars meet when Mavs visit OKC

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Luka Doncic had a phenomenal rookie season in Dallas. He’s been even better in Season 2.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander got his NBA career off to a great start last season, as well, with the Los Angeles Clippers. Like Doncic, he has taken a big step forward in Year 2 — but he’s doing it with the Oklahoma City Thunder after an offseason trade.

Tuesday night in Oklahoma City, two of the top second-year players in the NBA will meet when the Thunder play the Mavericks.

Doncic played in his 100th NBA game in Sunday’s loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles. And his first 100 games have been among the best first 100 any player has put together. His 28 games this season have been particularly impressive.

After averaging 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists as a rookie, Doncic is averaging 28.8/9.5/9.0 this season.

“Honestly I didn’t think it was going to be by that much,” Doncic told the Dallas Morning News this week of his improvement. “But as long as we keep going like this, winning games, I wouldn’t change anything. Like I’ve said from the beginning, we want to get into the playoffs. That’s our goal.”

The Mavericks haven’t made the playoffs since the 2015-16 season but are fifth in the Western Conference heading into Tuesday’s game.

No other player has made more 3-pointers during the first 100 games of a career than Doncic with his 250, and only one other player — Oscar Robertson with 44 — had more triple-doubles than Doncic’s 17.

Across the court, Gilgeous-Alexander has been a major piece in the Thunder’s surprising 17-15 start.

In Sunday’s win at Toronto, Gilgeous-Alexander tied a career high with 32 points, the third time in five games he has reached the mark. He leads the team with his 19.8-point scoring average.

“He’s got it all,” Thunder point guard Chris Paul told reporters of Gilgeous-Alexander. “Mid-range, finishes, shooting, and his defense — his defensive intensity.”

The Thunder have won two consecutive games and six of their last seven.

Oklahoma City is in the midst of a stretch of playing six of seven games away from home, with Tuesday’s game being the lone home game during the two-week stint.

The game is the first of three meetings between the teams this season.

After wrapping up their three-game road trip in Oklahoma City, the Mavericks return home for their next six.

The Mavericks could be without starter Tim Hardaway Jr., their third-leading scorer at 13.7 points per game, after he injured his left hamstring early in Sunday’s loss.

It could be worse for the Thunder, who could be without their Nos. 2 & 3 scorers against Dallas.

Danilo Gallinari (18.0 ppg) has missed four consecutive games with left-ankle soreness while sixth man Dennis Schroder (18.4) is dealing with right ankle soreness.

Schroder suffered the injury before Friday’s game at Charlotte, but played in that game. But the injury kept him out of Sunday’s game at Toronto.

It’s the 15th consecutive season, including the 12 since the team moved to Oklahoma City, that the Thunder franchise has hosted a New Year’s Eve game.

–Field Level Media

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