Years from now in barber shops all around North Texas, many folks will probably be sitting around and talking about the historic events that took place Monday night at American Airlines Center.
Folks gathered at the water cooler in their office will probably be having that same conversation on Tuesday.
On Monday, Luka Doncic took his rightful place among the NBA greats – well, in this case, among one special NBA great – and guided the Mavs to a dramatic jaw-dropping 117-110 triumph over the San Antonio Spurs. The win was the second in a row for the Mavs (8-5) on this four-game homestand which continues Wednesday against the Golden State Warriors.
Doncic was otherworldly against the Spurs, finishing with a career-high 42 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists in registering his NBA-high sixth triple-double of the season. It’s the first time a member of the Mavs ever recorded a triple-double that involved that player scoring at least 40 points.
Even more impressive, Doncic joins LeBron James as the only two players in NBA history under the age of 21 to collect a triple-double that included at least 40 points.
All game long, Doncic was poetry in motion as he converted 14-of-27 shots, kept making big shot after big shot, and buried a gut-check 29-foot, step-back 3-pointer with 26.5 seconds left that put the Mavs ahead, 115-110.
“Luka is playing like an MVP-caliber player right now,” said forward Kristaps Porzingis, who collected 18 points and 10 boards. “Career high (in points) for him, triple-double, I’m happy for him.
“He’s just doing things, penetrating, drawing fouls, being super effective for us, shooting the ball well. He’s doing it all for us and I’m happy that he’s able to play at this level right now.”
James was 20 years and 100 days old when he had a 40-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist night on Apr. 9, 2005 during his second season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Doncic, who is 20 years and 263 days old, was more than delighted to join some high-powered NBA company in James.
“But it feels like every time that there are stats you don’t know about,” Doncic said, “it’s great to hear.”
Doncic had missed seven consecutive 3-pointers before launching the game-winner that broke the Spurs’ backs.
“I’m not afraid of the moment,” Doncic said. “After the shot it felt great.
“I thought it was going in. I think it’s just confidence.”
Dorian Finney-Smith also had one of those nights where his confidence was sky-high. The fourth-year forward poured in a career-high 22 points on 8-of-10 shots, and also converted 3-of-4 from 3-point land.
For Finney-Smith, no shot was bigger than the one he made that barely beat the 24-second shot clock and gave Dallas a 112-107 lead with 1:14 remaining in the game. At the last second, Porzingis passed the ball to Finney-Smith, who immediately treated it like it was a hot potato and flung it at the basket and it calmly nestled through the nets.
“Really, I looked at the clock and I thought KP was going to shoot it and it just bounced to me and I just threw it up and it went in,” Finney-Smith said. “Exactly how we drew it up.”
All-in-all, it was one of those games where Doncic looked like he is one of the five best players in the NBA. The second-year point guard tallied 17 points in the first quarter – the Mavs led 30-12 at one point in the opening period – and just kept torching the Spurs the balance of the night.
“This guy can do anything he wants to on the basketball court,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s having just one of the magical runs right now.
“It’s a phenomenal thing to watch, it’s a phenomenal thing to be a part of. And his teammates and I, we’re all just kind of along for the ride here.”
With Doncic firing in 24 points, the Mavs held a 59-49 advantage at intermission. He added 10 more points in the third quarter and another eight in the fourth to tie a neat little bow around the most spectacular game of his short career.
“He’s a hell of a player,” said Spurs’ swingman DeMar DeRozan, who scored a season-high 36 points. “Got to give him credit. He’s special for a reason.”
Finney-Smith, who also collected five rebounds and three assists, marveled at the way Doncic was able to slice and dice his way through the Spurs’ defense and get to his spots on the court. Or the way he was able to rise up and pass the ball to an open teammate on the other side of the floor.
“He’s going to do what he do,” Finney-Smith said. “He’s going to zip the ball to that corner. He draws so much attention when he gets in that lane and he does a great job of facilitating and getting guys going.
“He knows who’s hot and he tries to feed them the ball. When he’s making shots, the (defense) can kind of dial in on him and it just opens up the floor for us to get open threes.”
The Spurs (5-9) lost for the sixth time in a row. Meanwhile, the Mavs shot 50 percent from the field and also saw Jalen Brunson come off the bench to contribute 11 points in only 13 minutes.
But this was a night where Doncic deserved to take a bow for how he just dominated from the first minute right up until the final seconds.
“In the big picture, this is an awful lot to ask of a young guy, let’s be honest,” Carlisle said. “It is hard to fathom how much that kind of production takes out of you in an NBA game.
“It is a lot emotionally. It’s a lot of weight to carry, and as we move along, finding balance to help Luka with the load is an important thing, and I am looking at that all the time.”