DALLAS — Ahead of the Dallas Mavericks’ 117-112 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers, Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd was singing praises of Dallas’ star Luka Doncic.

He was also empathizing with him.

Dallas (7-5) was reeling coming into Saturday’s affair. Doncic hadn’t played great — relatively — during the two-game road trip. And following the losses, Doncic candidly said that he was tired. He’s human. But during Kidd’s obligatory pregame press conference, the Mavericks’ coach explained the necessity of Doncic playing well in relation to the team’s overall excess. That’s a given. Yet, he followed that no-duh answer with an opinion that was even more intriguing. Kidd explained that Doncic shouldn’t feel the pressure of doing everything, even though it’s in his nature as a star to do so.

“It’s not just Luka, it’s who can help him take some of the stress away,” Kidd said. “He’s trying to put the team in a position to win. For him, he might feel like he has to do it himself. The greats have always thought that way. That’s the competitor [in him]. He wants to win, so we all have to be better — coaches and his teammates.”

So, again, Doncic did his part. He notched a 42-point triple-double, looking assertive, decisive, and determined. He didn’t settle for tough 3-pointers, making a concerted effort to get to the paint and score inside. And he was rewarded with 18 free throw attempts for his paint-bound ambitions.

Typical Doncic. The difference on Saturday, however, was the others.

Spencer Dinwiddie, known as a 40 percent 3-point shooter since joining the Mavericks last season, hit three consecutive triples in the fourth quarter that appeared to break Portland’s spirits.

Dorian Finney-Smith hit the biggest shot of the game at the top of the key on an extra pass from Reggie Bullock with 54 seconds left.

Apparent in it all was Doncic’s lack of direct involvement and the appearance of trust in what his teammates are capable of in critical moments.

“There’s a trust there with each other,” Doncic said. “I think it was Reggie [Bullock] that had an open shot, but he saw Doe-Doe [Dorian Finney-Smith] was more open. So, we got a great shot to a better shot. There’s just a trust that we have to have every game.”

“It’s easy, you know,” he added regarding maintaining trust with his teammates. “Of course, they can’t make every shot. But, if I draw the defense and attack the paint and then kick it out they may be open all game. Just keep shooting it. I always tell them to keep shooting it. When you’re open you’ve got to shoot it. That’s it. I’m going to keep my trust in them and that is pretty easy for me.”

Dallas doesn’t have help coming. Though the roster feels one or two moves away from being a contender, the viability of those moves being made midseason is relatively null and void. If the Mavericks are going to improve, it will come from within. It will come from learning how to play with and off each other.

Portland was the litmus test for Dallas to see if it can meet the moment. As one of the hottest fourth-quarter teams, who has won a number of games by way of buzzer-beating game-winners, the Mavericks beating the Blazers the way they did — with Doncic trusting “his guys” to make shots down the stretch — matters.

It was the second close win all season in which, though Doncic was everything, he didn’t have to make every shot down the stretch for Dallas to come out alright. The first came in Brooklyn when Dallas pelted the Nets with an onslaught of 3-pointers in overtime.

That’s the Mavericks’ recipe for success. Convince Doncic he doesn’t have to be everything all the time. But that starts with consistent shot-making and continued assertiveness from Dinwiddie on down.

“You trust the work,” Dinwiddie, who scored 20 points with six made 3-pointers, said. “And you step up and try to knock them down for the team. Whether you are in the closing lineup or not, obviously there is a certain level of pride in being there, but at the same time, you trust your guys. But this is a marathon and everyone is going to contribute to our success in some form or fashion, and you have to be prepared for that every night.”

Related Dallas Mavericks reading

“Mavericks: Jason Kidd has a worrying message about Luka Doncic.”

“Mavericks: Youth movement is leading in a critical way.” 

“How Luka Doncic is confirming he is one of the greatest to ever play.” 

Feature image via Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports