Just ask the Utah Jazz.
With a sellout crowd of 20,077 jumping for joy inside American Airlines Center on Monday, Doncic treated them to a nice night out on the town as he collected 35 points, grabbed a season-high 16 rebounds, dispensed seven assists and recorded three steals in guiding the Mavs to a 111-103 triumph over the Jazz. Doncic became just the 16th player in NBA history to record such a stat line, and the first to do so this season.
The win moved the Mavs (40-25) to within half-a-game of the Jazz (40-24) in the race for the No. 4 spot in the Western Conference and the all-important homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
“With (the) four (seed) you have the home advantage, and that’s a big thing,” Doncic said. “We’ve never had it since I’ve been here, so I think we’re trying to get the home advantage for sure.”
If Doncic keeps playing lights-out, homecourt advantage in the opening round of the playoffs just may be in the cards for the Mavs. The four-year veteran shredded the vaunted Jazz defense as he fired in 12 field goals in 23 attempts — including making five of his 11 shots from three-point range – to move past Jay Vincent and into 10th place on the Mavs’ all-time scoring list.
If it wasn’t Jazz all-world defensive center Rudy Gobert who Doncic had on an island for some one-on-one brand of basketball that he finished off with a three-pointer, it was Doncic doing the same number on Jazz backup center Hassan Whiteside. It all led to the Mavs winning for the fifth straight time and for the 11th time in their last 13 games and going 15 games over .500 for the first time since they finished the 2014-15 season 50-32.
“They’re really good, obviously,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said of the Mavs. “The way they’re playing right now, they’re as good as anybody in the NBA, and that’s obvious.
“You can point to what Luka does. It’s special the way that he scores, rebounds and play makes.”
After the Jazz chipped a 20-point deficit (85-65) down to 103-97 with 1:31 remaining, it was Doncic who delivered the spectacular play(s) of the game. Right after Doncic split a pair of free throws, not only did he strip the ball from Donovan Mitchell near midcourt. But he also had the presence of mind to look ahead and toss a long lob pass to Dorian Finney-Smith, who hammered it home for a 106-97 lead with 59.5 seconds left.
“The defense was great (and) Luka was great defensively,” coach Jason Kidd said. “He’s been great al season for us. Great hands. He was in the right position.
“The second part of that question is the easy part. He’s a great passer. Dorian gets the easy dunk.”
Later on, Bojan Bogdanovic (21 points) drained three free throws to get Utah within 109-103 of the Mavs after he was fouled by Spencer Dinwiddie while attempting a three-pointer with 31 seconds left. But less than two seconds later, Dinwiddie dropped in a couple of free throws to widen the Mavs’ lead to 111-103.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned steal — and assist– from Doncic came in a game that was so chippy that he picked up his 14th technical foul of the season. Two more technical fouls by Doncic and he’ll be automatically suspended for one game.
At the time, Gobert already had a technical foul for elbowing Dwight Powell, who finished with 13 points. So had he been charged with another one, he would have been automatically ejected from the game. Doncic described the whole scene as “emotions” that got out of hand.
“I don’t know how I got a technical and he didn’t,” Doncic said. “(Gobert) threw the ball first. I’m used to that now.”
Gobert had a similar take, saying: “It is just basketball, and you play with a lot of emotion sometimes. It is just part of the game.”
Doncic also is used to sizing up an opponent and then taking them down. That’s what he did in the first quarter when he scored 16 points as the Mavs jumped out to a 30-24 lead after the opening 12 minutes.
Then when Doncic went to the bench, Dinwiddie took over and tallied 11 of his 23 points in the second quarter.
“You get out of the man’s way. If you can score 16 in a quarter, odds are we’ll probably win the game.”
Those odds got even better when the Mavs do what they did to make Mitchell uncomfortable. After scoring 33 points in each of Utah’s two wins over the Mavs earlier this season in Salt Lake City, Mitchell was held to just 17 points on 5-of-19 shooting while being hassled by Reggie Bullock and Finney-Smith.
“I thought Doe-Doe (Finney-Smith) did a great job, and also Reggie did a really good job,” Kidd said. “I thought those two were great.
“Listen, Donovan is an All-Star and he’s probably going to be in the MVP talk. He’s hard to guard. He’s shifty. He gets to the basket, he can shoot the three, so I thought those guys did a great job of just contesting and making it tough on him, then we got lucky against him tonight.”
In addition, the Mavs’ ability to chase Utah off the three-point line was pivotal. After the Jazz converted 14 triples in 25 tries in the first half of their Sunday night win in Oklahoma City, they finished the game against the Mavs with just 12 three-pointers in 31 attempts.
Also, Finney-Smith followed in the footsteps of Doncic and Dinwiddie and severely hurt the Jazz on the offensive end of the floor as he scored 21 points while knocking down 4-of-10 shots from downtown.
“I’m shooting when I’m open,” Finney-Smith said. “It feels good when guys are telling you to shoot more.
“I’m just having fun with it. The ball is moving, everybody is playing the right way and it has been fun.”
It’s also been fun for Doncic, who improved his MVP status by being named the Western Conference Player of the Month for the month of February. After that prestigious honor, he collected 25 points, eight rebounds and five rebounds last Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers, and 41 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists last Thursday against the Golden State Warriors before sitting out Saturday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with a left toe sprain.
Then on Monday with the Mavs playing without Jalen Brunson — he has a right foot contusion — Doncic put the Jazz in a blender and spun them around in many, many circles.
“He was good (and) he was competitive,” Kidd said. “I thought having the time off helped, and he responded. He’s playing at a high level for us.”
The Jazz, who could possibly face the Mavs in the first round of the playoffs, can attest to that.
“He definitely made some shots tonight,” Gobert said. “Obviously, he is a very good and a very unique player. I think you just have to try to keep mixing it up.
“I have to do a better job switching after him. Try to take away the easy step-back and just make him work. He is a very good player.”
An MVP-type player