As his incredible stat lines keep reaching new heights, Luka Doncic seems almost apologetic for making the NBA game look like a walk in the park.
Monday night it was the Chicago Bulls’ turn to feel the wrath of Doncic as the second-year point guard registered his second straight triple-double, igniting the Dallas Mavericks’ 118-110 victory before an American Airlines Center sellout crowd of 20,238.
Doncic finished with 38 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. He joined Russell Westbrook, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson as the only players to collect at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in four consecutive games.
Westbrook reached the feat in five straight games, while Chamberlain, Baylor and Robertson did it four games in a row, as has Doncic. It’s almost to the point where folks are running out of adjectives to describe the remarkable things Doncic is doing on the basketball court.
“He’s a great player, and I thought tonight the most impressive thing about his game was his demeanor and his disposition and his poise,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Look, teams are sending athletic guys to be physical and bang him and all that.
“He stayed level-headed. He had a couple of what I thought were logical, analytical talks with the officials at the right times, and he kept playing. He was masterful down the stretch.”
So masterful that the Bulls didn’t know what hit them. Or if they did, they were unable to combat whatever Doncic threw at them.
Asked if he was aware of the fans’ excitement the closer he got to collecting his 11th triple-double of the season and the 19th of his career, Doncic appeared unfazed.
“I get excited from the beginning,” he said. “They (fans) really help us get the win. They get us going and we try to get them going. That’s how it’s got to be.”
Doncic ruled the third quarter when he totally lit up the Bulls with 21 of the 27 points the Mavs scored during that period. In the quarter, Doncic was 9-of-14 from the floor and 3-of-6 from 3-point range and had the crowd in a tizzy.
Earlier this season, Doncic scored 22 points in the first quarter against the Golden State Warriors. He was in attack mode again on Monday.
In trying to explain what that’s like being in the type of zone he was in during the third quarter, Doncic said: “It feels amazing. I had fun.
“The crowd was into it, everybody was into it and we played great defense, too. I had fun and that’s how it should be.”
That scoring spree by Doncic sent the Mavs into the fourth quarter with an 88-82 lead. And by the time Maxi Kleber and Justin Jackson (11 points, 15 minutes) each drained a 3-pointer, the Mavs were able to build their lead to 106-92 with 5:20 left in the game.
“This is one of the most physical teams in the league,” Carlisle said of the Bulls. “I think they are the hardest-playing team in the NBA.
“They just come at you constantly. We talked about it before the game and made sure everyone understood they were going to get hit a lot, there were going to be guys all over them, and they were going to get bumped and thrown around.”
None of the Bulls’ physicality rattled Doncic. He was 14-of-24 from the field and 5-of-10 from beyond the 3-point arc in 34 minutes.
“For me, all that matters is we got a win,” Doncic said. “We needed this win coming from a loss (on Saturday against Charlotte) that we should have won. We just played tough from the start to the end and that’s how it’s got to be.”
Back from a three-game absence due to a left hamstring strain, Tim Hardaway Jr. had a major impact as he poured in 14 of the first 26 points the Mavs scored and finished the night with 15 points in 22 minutes.
“We really missed him,” said Carlisle, whose team led 61-55 at halftime. “We missed his energy, his attitude on the floor, we missed what he brings at both ends.
“On offense, it’s the shot-making, the driving and play making. And defensively, he gives us another versatile defender at the (shooting guard) spot. He got us off to a great start.”
As the Mavs improved their record to 23-13 going into Wednesday’s home game against Denver, Doncic kept fielding questions about the pile of tremendous stats he’s accumulated in such a short period of time. But he kept deflecting them, insisting this is a team game.
“I don’t mind (discussing individual statistics), but I think every game is another stat,” Doncic said. “For me, all I would say is it’s more important to get a win.”
All Bulls coach Jim Boylen could do was tip his hat to Doncic.
“I thought we did a good job on him for the most part,” Boylen said. “I thought we made him work for everything. He had one of those nights that good players have. You got to give him credit for that.”