Luka Doncic did it to the Boston Celtics — again.
Last year at American Airlines Center, Luka Doncic put on his Superman cape and defeated the Celtics with a dramatic 3-point shot on the left side of the court with just 0.1 second remaining. Saturday night at the same place and on the same side of the court came the exact same results.
This time Doncic drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer as the Mavs held off the pesky Celtics and got out of AAC with a stunning 107-104 victory. The win padded the Mavs’ record to 6-3, while Boston dropped to 4-6.
For a player who lives for these electrifying moments, Doncic was sizzling – again.
“As a basketball player those are the best moments you can experience in your basketball career,” said Doncic, who finished with 33 points, nine rebounds and five assists. “There’s certain games that mean more, but hitting a game-winner is just one of the few things that’s the best in the world.
“I don’t know how I feel when I shoot the ball. I just want it to go in. I don’t know what I’m thinking about.”
Coach Jason Kidd was thinking the shot by Doncic was going directly into the basket.
“I played with a player like that before here (n Dirk Nowitzki),” Kidd said. “Everybody knows the ball is going to 41 (Nowitzki), and he delivers. I think everyone knew the ball was going to 77 (Doncic) and he delivered.
“He loves that moment, his teammates know that and I would say that the opposing team knows the ball is going to Luka, and there’s nothing they could do.”
The game marked the return of forward Kristaps Porzingis, who missed the previous five contests with lower back tightness. Porzingis played 28 minutes and collected 21 points seven rebounds and two steals.
“He was great,” Kidd said, referring to Porzingis. “I thought for his first time back after being out for five games he was really good.”
Porzingis was 7-of-13 from the field and 7-of-8 from the free throw line, and tallied 15 of his points in a second half that got so uncomfortable for the Mavs.
“I’m so happy to be back out on the court,” Porzingis said. “It (feels bad) to not be able to play and help, and then on top you have to out in all the cardio work to make sure you stay in shape.
“Playing is the fun part and today, as soon as I woke up, I knew it was game day and I was ready to go and I was extremely excited the whole day.”
Besides Doncic and Porzingis, for the Mavs, Jalen Brunson and Reggie Bullock scored 13 points apiece.
Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 32 points and 11 rebounds, and Dennis Schroder had 20 points and six assists.
The Mavs caught a huge break when Flower Mound Marcus product Marcus Smart intentionally fouled Doncic with five seconds left on the shot clock and 11.6 seconds remaining in the game. At the time, Doncic wasn’t too far from the Celtics’ bench and would have been hard-pressed to get the ball across midcourt and get off a decent shot.
Although the Celtics had a foul to give, the foul by Smart reset the shot clock, meaning the Mavs could work the final 11.4 seconds of the game clock all the way down to the final second, which is exactly what they did.
“Yeah, I was surprised, because if you don’t foul you (the Celtics) have the last shot,” Doncic said, when asked about the inexplicable foul by Smart. “It was 10 seconds on the shot clock and 16 on the game clock, so I was really surprised.”
The Mavs also caught a break in that the Celtics played without All-Star forward Jaylen Brown, who is suffering from some tightness in his right hamstring. The Celtics, incidentally, entered Saturday’s game 11th in the Eastern Conference.
Boston fell behind by 19 points (57-38) with less than a minute left in the first half. But the Celtics scrambled all the way back and assumed a 104-102 lead after Marcus Smart buried a thee-pointer with 2:11 left.
An offensive rebound put-back basket by Porzingis tied the game at 104 with 1:39 remaining. Later on came the dramatics from Doncic.
“I think it was a difficult shot,” Doncic said. “I had to stop for a second – I didn’t know it went in.
“I was just trying to get to my spot.”
Behind 16 points form Doncic and 13 from Brunson, the Mavs built a 57-40 lead at intermission. But Tatum and Schroder got cooking in the second half and got the Celtics back in the game.
However, in the end, Doncic did what Doncic does best. He knocked down game-winner with former Mavs guard Josh Richardson right in his face.
“From afar, I would say it probably started when he was young, when he became a pro at 13 or 14 years old and understanding what it takes to be successful,” Kidd said. “And also, being a star at a young age and everyone expecting you to deliver, I think it’s just become his norm.
“We’ve seen great players like LeBron (James) early in their career have that same mindset or those same finishes. (Doncic is) not scared of the moment. He’s a special person.”
A special person who gave the Mavs’ fans all they could ask for and more.