It is the end of an era for the Dallas Mavericks after NBA championship-winning head coach Rick Carlisle stepped down amid reports of tension with star Luka Doncic.

Carlisle had two years remaining on his contract but opted not to return for the 2021-22 season following the Mavericks' first-round playoff defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers.

The winningest coach in franchise history (555-478, 53.7 per cent), Carlisle departs after 13 seasons, including the franchise's first NBA championship in 2011.

But Carlisle leaves Dallas following reports of tension between him and two-time All-Star Doncic – whose long-term future is dominating headlines after the exit of president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson.

"After a number of in-person conversations with Mark Cuban over the last week, today I informed him that I will not be returning as head coach of the Dallas Mavericks," Carlisle, whose Mavericks did not advance past the first round of the playoffs since their 2011 title, told ESPN on Thursday.

"This was solely my decision. My family and I have had an amazing 13-year experience working with great people in a great city."

Carlisle, who won the NBA championship as a player with the Boston Celtics in 1986, is one of only 14 individuals to claim a title as both a player and a head coach.

The 61-year-old moved up to 15th on the NBA's all-time wins list in 2020-21, surpassing Cotton Fitzsimmons (832) with 833 career victories.

"Rick informed me today about his decision to step down as head coach," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said in a statement. "On top of being a tremendous basketball coach, he was also a friend and a confidant.

"Rick helped us bring the O'Brien trophy to Dallas and those memories I will always cherish. I want to thank Rick for all he gave the franchise and this city. We wish him all the best."

Dirk Nowitzki was a "lucky charm" for the Dallas Mavericks as he watched their Game 2 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, according to head coach Rick Carlisle.

Nowitzki, a 14-time All-Star, spent his entire NBA career in Dallas, winning a championship under Carlisle in 2011 when he was Finals MVP.

But the 2007 MVP retired in 2019 and so was restricted to the role of spectator as the Mavs looked to build on a Game 1 first-round playoff win on Tuesday.

His presence was enough to inspire his former team, too, with the German pictured with current Mavs superstar Luka Doncic following the game.

Doncic led the way with 39 points in an impressive 127-121 win, improving his postseason average to 32.0 points per game. That is the highest mark of any Dallas player regardless of games played, with the top spot previously belonging to Nowitzki as he scored 25.3 points across 145 playoff appearances.

There is a long way to go before Doncic can think about repeating Nowitzki's Finals run – a Miami Heat series in which he averaged 26.0 points – but the support of the team's greatest ever player is a boost.

"I saw him and [wife] Jessica in the hotel yesterday," said Carlisle, Mavs coach since 2008.

"It gives you a profound lift when you're in between the first two games of the playoffs and you see that playoff warrior who we've been through so many battles with.

"He said that he was going to be coming to the game, which was great news.

"And I certainly believe that him being there tonight was a lucky charm for us. It never hurts, never hurts."

Although Doncic was the obvious star once again, there was also a big performance from Tim Hardaway Jr, who contributed 28 points and made six attempts from beyond the arc. Both were career playoff highs.

Hardaway said: "[It was] 2-0 when Dirk gets in the building, I'll tell you that.

"Yeah, Dirk, we saw 'Dirky' earlier in the day, we knew he was there and we were happy we were able to pull out a victory.

"It's still a long series and the job is not done at all. It's just creeping into what we can become and we've just got to keep on focusing in and locking in."

Rick Carlisle acknowledged it is "significant" for the Dallas Mavericks to have avoided the play-in tournament after securing an automatic playoff berth by beating the Toronto Raptors on Friday.

Luka Doncic had 20 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for an 11th triple-double of the season as the Mavericks defeated the Raptors 114-110.

Toronto trailed by 19 points early in the second half but, despite an undermanned roster only using seven players in the game, pulled within three with three minutes remaining.

However, the Mavs held out and will finish either fifth or sixth in the Western Conference, securing a 17th playoff trip in 21 seasons.

It means the team have a small rest period rather than having to go through the additional process of the play-in tournament, something head coach Carlisle believes could be crucial.

"Getting a win is important," Carlisle said. "It solidified either a six or a five spot, depending on what happens on Sunday.

"And avoiding the play-in is significant. It's important. There are just too many advantages to not being in the play-in situation.

"So I'm happy for our guys. They worked hard for this."

Asked what message he gave his team as the Raptors chipped away at the lead, Carlisle replied: "I don't talk about what I say to the team in private. 

"I don't coach my team through the press. Guys are happy to win the game and to be removed from the play-in situation.

"We've got to gather ourselves for Sunday. It's a game Sunday night against a Minnesota team that's been playing very, very well in the last two weeks, so we'll have our hands full there."

The Mavericks (42-29) had a 9-14 record in early February but a 12th win from 15 outings means they are a season-high 13 games over .500. 

"That's great. Obviously, I think I remember that tough stretch when we were the 12 or 13th spot and everybody had us out of the playoffs," Doncic said.

"But now we made the playoffs and it's good. We're going to have a couple of days off, and that's what we needed."

Luka Doncic sunk a buzzer-beating three-pointer for the Dallas Mavericks against the Memphis Grizzlies and declared: "Those are the best feelings ever."

The Slovenian took centre stage in Memphis as he posted 29 points, sealing a 114-113 victory with just 1.8 seconds left on the clock to earn the nickname 'Houdini' from his coach Rick Carlisle.

Grayson Allen had only just missed two free throws for the Grizzlies, making the triumph even sweeter for the Mavs.

"I was really surprised when it went in," said Doncic, whose exploits earned praise on Twitter from LeBron James. "Those are the best feelings ever.

"Sometimes you're going to make it, but sometimes you're going to miss it, too.

"You've got to take that, too. I think that's the most important part. If my team trusts me in that moment, I'll keep working on it."

Coach Carlisle compared the Mavs' talisman to the legendary Harry Houdini, conceding his team had pulled off a miraculous escape.

"In those situations, you pull off a win in a game like that once in a blue moon," he said.

"It just doesn't happen very often. Luka made one of the signature, special shots that you're going to see for a long time.

"This is one of those joyous nights where we escaped. We had Houdini. He got us out of here alive.

"He's just a very, very special and unique guy when it comes to these kinds of things. He sees angles and possibilities and has a belief system that very few of us can fathom. Pretty amazing stuff."

The Mavs are now 30-24, sitting seventh in the Western Conference.

The Milwaukee Bucks lost again without Giannis Antetokounmpo on Thursday, but coach Mike Budenholzer believes the two-time MVP's absence can benefit his team.

The Bucks completed a six-game road trip against the Dallas Mavericks, going down 116-101 at American Airlines Center.

Antetokounmpo featured in the first three of those games, yet he missed the next three after scoring a season-high 47 points against the Portland Trail Blazers.

The 'Greek Freak' leads Milwaukee in points (28.8), assists (6.2) and rebounds (11.4) per game, while also contributing 1.3 blocks and 1.1 steals.

Knee soreness is impacting Antetokounmpo's bid for a third straight MVP triumph, but it is also hindering the Bucks. The team are 29-16 when their superstar plays but just 3-3 without him.

Milwaukee were not helped against the Mavs by poor shooting displays from Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, their second and third men.

Middleton was an alarming 6-for-27 from the field for 14 points – 22.2 per cent, his second-worst outing of the year – as Holiday, who signed a lucrative contract extension last week, was 6-for-16 for 13 points.

Budenholzer acknowledged both players must perform better as he suggested the Bucks needed to adapt to playing when Antetokounmpo is not on the floor.

The 26-year-old forward played just 30.4 minutes per game last season when Milwaukee led the East, but he has been relied on for 34.0 minutes in 2020-21.

"The guys are getting more opportunities," Budenholzer said. "There's a little bit more of a load on both Jrue and Khris. I think they're learning to take that.

"We didn't make enough shots tonight; Khris, Jrue didn't make enough shots. We're getting better. We'll learn from these things.

"Playing without Giannis, he can't play 48 minutes, so I think there's going to be good stretches for us when Giannis doesn't play and we'll grow from these experiences playing without him."

While the Bucks struggled without their big name, Dallas got 27 points, nine assists and nine rebounds from Luka Doncic.

But the Slovenian also earned his 12th technical foul of the season. That tally has steadily increased over his NBA career – five in his rookie year, nine last year – and he is now just four shy of a one-game suspension.

"He's aware," coach Rick Carlisle said. "My level of concern is there. But look, he's an emotional competitor. It all comes from the right place.

"He's smart, he knows where the count is. If he's going to get his 16th, he'll get it in a situation where it's time for a day of rest anyway. I'm not really that worried about it."

It was a big win for the Mavs, who returned to winning ways after a shock defeat to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday ended a run of five successive victories since Doncic returned from a short lay-off due to illness.

"This was a playoff-type game [against the Bucks], playoff-calibre in terms of intensity and competitiveness and the talent on the floor," Carlisle said. "We did a much, much better job, top to bottom, than we did last night."

Dallas also got 26 points, 17 rebounds and two blocks out of Kristaps Porzingis. Eleven of his points came in the fourth quarter on 4-for-4 shooting after failing to attempt a single field goal in the final 12 minutes against the Rockets.

Porzingis said of his relationship with Doncic: "We're trying to play together and help each other. We want to win – at the end, we all want to win here.

"We have to keep playing, keep playing together, playing well and helping each other."

Luka Doncic says the Dallas Mavericks just have to "keep rolling" after scoring an impressive win over the Utah Jazz on Monday.

The Jazz, who hold the best record in the NBA this season, saw a nine-game winning streak halted as the Mavericks ran out 111-103 victors behind 31 points, nine rebounds and eight assists from Doncic.

Dorian Finney-Smith had 23 points to go alongside six rebounds and four assists, while Jalen Brunson (20 points), Josh Richardson (17 points) and Tim Hardaway Jr (16 points) all contributed in the absence of Kristaps Porzingis, who was missing with a wrist sprain.

The Mavericks, seventh in the Western Conference, are now on a five-game winning run and are 7-3 over the past 10, with Doncic admitted their latest result helps build confidence as the season moves into a critical stage.

"I mean win every win is a confidence win, every NBA team can beat you," he said.

"Every win is a confidence win here, obviously this one they're first in the West or second, so obviously it's a big win. We just have to keep rolling, I guess."

The Mavericks impressed in the long-range game, going 23 for 49 from three-point range. Prior to the game, Utah led the NBA in three-point attempts (17.1) and second for success rate (39.8 per cent), but they were 12 from 44 (27.3 per cent).

"To hold these guys to 103 is a hell of a job," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said.

"The difference was we just came out and we were much more physical than we were last time we played them. That was a long time ago; that was light years ago."

Zion Williamson is a "Shaquille O'Neal-type force" with skills like a point guard, according to Rick Carlisle, who saw his Dallas Mavericks struggle to contain the New Orleans Pelicans forward.

Having finished with a career-high 39 points in a loss to the Denver Nuggets in his previous outing, Williamson had 38 to help the Pelicans get back to winning ways on Saturday.

The 20-year-old contributed 10 points in a pivotal 18-8 run in the closing stages as he took over proceedings, helping New Orleans eventually prevail 112-103 as they claimed a third win in four outings.

Mavs coach Carlisle admitted his team found Williamson – who landed 12 free throws from 18 attempts, both season-high numbers – too much to handle with the game on the line.

"He's an unusual force and obviously a great player," Carlisle said.

"We'll have to figure something a little better out next time, but he's doing this to everybody. We did have some very good possessions guarding him, but he was a beast.

"It presents huge challenges for the defense and for officials. He is just creating collisions out there. This is a Shaquille O'Neal-type force of nature with a point guard skill set."

Williamson is averaging 26.3 points per game in his second season in the league, shooting 62.8 per cent from the field.

The first overall pick in the 2019 draft has had five games in this campaign with at least 15 field goals attempts and an 80 per cent success rate, the most by any NBA player since Charles Barkley had five in 1988-89 when playing for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Only two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (412) and Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (389) have taken more free throws than Williamson (364) so far this term, while he is also averaging seven rebounds per game.

His improvement as a playmaker is also impressive. Having averaged 2.1 assists in a rookie season that was limited to just 24 games, he is up at 3.5 through 43 outings in 2020-21, including 16 across in the last three for a Pelicans team fighting hard to make the playoffs.

However, while flattered by links to the legendary O'Neal, as well as other NBA greats, Williamson wants to leave his own legacy.

"I am who I am. I'm Zion. I'm trying to be the first and only Zion, that's all there is to it," he said after dazzling against Dallas.

The Pelicans are now 20-25 for the season to sit 12th in the Western Conference, with 14 of their victories coming in home games.

Rick Carlisle praised Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis' "tremendous" chemistry after the Dallas Mavericks won a fourth straight game.

Doncic (46 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds) and Porzingis (36 points and seven rebounds) led the Mavericks past the New Orleans Pelicans 143-130 on Friday.

It marked the first time in NBA history a pair of foreign-born team-mates each had 35-plus points in a game, as per Stats Perform.

Carlisle hailed the pair after the Mavericks improved to 13-14 to sit 11th in the Western Conference.

"They're both great offensive players, they're both very unique, they fit together extremely well, their games complement one another extremely well," the Mavericks head coach told a news conference.

"The chemistry was tremendous. Balls were being delivered on time, on target, people stepping into shots in rhythm. It was great stuff to watch."

Despite their win, the Mavericks gave up 130 points to Zion Williamson (36) and the Pelicans.

While Carlisle knows what his offense is capable of, he is eager to see the defense improve.

"This is why I keep talking about defense and I know some of our guys are talking about defense. This kind of shot-making is great, is it always sustainable? Of course not. Not every team can keep up this kind of pace, but we'll certainly try.

"This is the reason you've got to have a defense that'll hold up on nights maybe when you don't have it going quite like this. With the way we can space the floor, the way we can penetrate the ball, the way we can shoot the ball, all those kinds of things, we're going to create our share of problems for teams with our offense.

"We've just got to keep working on the basics – transition, protecting the rim, closing out, contesting and rebounding, those are the main things."

Luka Doncic surpassed Michael Jordan in the NBA history books with a triple-double but he took the blame for the Dallas Mavericks' loss to the Chicago Bulls.

Doncic posted his 29th career triple-double, however, the Mavericks still went down 117-101 against the Bulls on Sunday.

All-Star Doncic moved above Bulls and NBA great Jordan and into 15th position on the all-time triple-double list after finishing with 36 points, 16 rebounds and 15 assists.

Doncic put up the fourth 35-plus point, 15-plus rebound and 15-plus assist game in NBA history, while he joined Oscar Robertson (five times), Wilt Chamberlain (1968) and James Harden (2016) as the only players with that stat line.

However, Dallas star Doncic was not happy after the Mavericks suffered back-to-back defeats.

"The second half, I played terrible… I was being selfish a bit I think, because I had 30 points in the first half," Doncic told reporters.

"That wasn't me in the second half. I've got to do way better than that. That's just on me. I shouldn't be doing this."

Doncic added: "I was just taking some shots I shouldn't be taking. Just have to do way better than this. As a team, we have to step up, especially defensively and bring the energy."

Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said: "The stats are spectacular. It's phenomenal.

"But without a win, he won't be happy with it either."

Dallas Mavericks duo Luka Doncic and Rick Carlisle were delighted to see Kristaps Porzingis back in action after the Latvian made his first appearance of the NBA season on Wednesday. 

Having undergone knee surgery in October, Porzingis had missed Dallas' first nine games as he continued his recovery.

A potential return on Monday was then scuppered when the clash with the New Orleans Pelicans was postponed in accordance with the league's health and safety protocols amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

However, the former first-round pick by the New York Knicks was finally able to take the court again against the Charlotte Hornets, contributing 16 points during his 21 minutes in a 104-93 triumph. 

"He' an amazing player," Doncic - who led the way with 34 points - said, according to Dallas' official website. 

"He's got to get back into rhythm, and I think for the first game he played amazing. He's going to keep improving and we're going to need him a lot."

Mavs coach Carlisle admitted Porzingis' return – admittedly on a restriction in terms of minutes – makes a huge difference to the team, including helping to alleviate some of the pressure on the shoulders of Doncic. 

"When both of those guys are out there, it's a game-changer for us because you've got two guys that can both play on the inside and really space the floor on the outside," Carlisle said.  

"They can both put the ball on the floor and make plays. 

"You get two franchise players, it's important to have them on the floor together and available to play. You look at every team in this league, if they're without one of their cornerstone guys it's going to be a lot tougher job. 

"I think everybody feels a lot better now that KP is back in the mix."

The game was also notable for Carlisle in terms of a personal milestone, as he reached 800 victories in his coaching career.

Porzingis himself accepted he had been a little too eager to make an impact during his comeback, knowing his involvement in the game was always going to be limited. 

"What I think didn’t help me was knowing that I had the minutes restrictions," Porzingis said. "I was trying to do as much as I could in those minutes that I had. 

"Sometimes you don't make the best decisions when you really want to be aggressive, but it's okay. I wanted to be aggressive for the time I was going to be out there, and most importantly [it was the] first game and first win for me."

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