In the aftermath of the Dallas Mavericks’ 107-98 victory over Philadelphia on Friday, the 76ers had no problems identifying what the problem was that led to them blowing a 16-point lead and the game.
His name was Luka Doncic.
Like Baryshnikov in ballet shoes, Doncic tap-danced his way to 33 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists in the win over the Sixers. He was attacking the basket, burying mid-range jumpers, flinging fancy passes, crashing the boards and choreographing his way through the Sixers’ defense in dominating fashion.
Doncic was, in three words: Doing Luka things.
“Luka was a big struggle for us,” Sixers guard Seth Curry said. “He was doing everything — picking us apart on the defensive end, scoring, getting his teammates involved (and) getting to the paint.”
Curry grew accustomed to seeing Doncic pick apart defenses and making life miserable for whoever had the gall to try and defend him when they were teammates during the 2019-20 season. All of that came during Doncic’s first time being voted as a starter in the NBA All-Star game.
Fast forward two years later, as far as Curry is concerned, nothing has changed in the dynamics involved in trying to get a grip on Doncic and all the lethal weapons he brings to the court.
“When (Doncic) missed, guys would come over and contest,” Curry said. “Guys would be crashing and getting the offensive rebound.
“He was just doing what he wanted out there. It was just tough sledding for us. They got a good rhythm and we couldn’t slow them down like they did us in the third quarter.”
The shiny performance by Doncic represented the sixth triple-double in his last 14 games – he only had two in his first 24 games – as he continues to round into a form that probably is absolutely scary for defenders. Then again, since Doncic was able to defy gravity and execute two spectacular dunks in the third quarter after having just one dunk the entire season entering Friday’s game, perhaps, physically, the fourth-year point guard is already right where he wants to be.
“Yeah, I had two (dunks),” Doncic said. “But obviously I feel better. That’s something I’m really proud of.
“I’ve just got to get better. I feel more explosive and better.”
Doncic has now scored 30 or more points for the fourth straight game. And he has four double-doubles and two triple-doubles in those four games.
It’s the third time in his career Doncic has tallied 30 or more points – with four double-doubles and two triple-doubles – in four consecutive games. He also performed this feat Dec. 31, 2019-Jan. 6, 2020 against Oklahoma City, Brooklyn, Charlotte and Denver, and Nov. 18-24, 2019 against San Antonio, Golden State, Cleveland and Houston.
Taking a lot of passes from Doncic during the ’19-’20 season, Curry averaged 12.4 points and shot career highs of 49.5 percent from the field and 45.2 percent from downtown in the only season when the two were teammates. But on Friday, he was on the other end in a game where Doncic had 18 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and two steals – in the second half.
“I thought he took over at the end of the second (quarter),” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought that’s where – you know, during games you fall on something that works.
“They fell on a set (play) and they stayed with it and they executed the hell out of it.”
BRIEFLY: A huge roar came from the crowd during Friday’s game against the Sixers when Boban Marjanovic got off the bench and entered the contest with 2:48 remaining before halftime. It was the 7-4 center’s first appearance since Dec. 27 – 19 games ago. Marjanovic was mainly in the game because the Mavs were running out of big men. Starting center Dwight Powell and backup center Marquese Chriss each had picked up three fouls at the time. And Kristaps Porzingis (right knee bone bruise) and Maxi Kleber (left knee effusion) sat out the game with an injury. A fan favorite, Marjanovic wound up converting his only field goal attempt and finished the game with two points in those two minutes and 48 seconds. . .Powell finished Friday’s contest with 14 points (6-of-6 shooting) and five rebounds. In his last 24 games, Powell is shooting an amazing 70.7 percent from the field (82-of-116). The Mavs are 14-3 when Powell scores 10 or more points and a perfect 6-0 when he scores at least 14 points.
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