SACRAMENTO – Luka Doncic continues to reach such rarefied air that even his coach was left shaking his head in disbelief after the second-year point guard destroyed the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.
In putting his proverbial stamp on this game and showing why he is a legitimate candidate to win this year’s Most Valuable Player award, Doncic torched the Kings for 25 points, 15 rebounds and a career-high 17 assists while pacing the Mavs to a 127-123 victory at Golden 1 Center. It was the 12th triple-double of the season for Doncic and the 20th of his brief career.
Doncic joins Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd as the only players in Mavs history to deliver a 25-point, 15-rebound, 15-assist triple-double. Also, according to basketball-reference.com, this same eye-popping stat line has happened just 11 times in NBA history and only five times in the last 55 years.
“These numbers are just crazy,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s hard to fathom.
“And they’re trapping him all over the court every time down. He’s both beating the traps and playing beautifully out of the traps. He had an amazing game.”
The show-stopping performance by Doncic helped the Mavs end the first half of the season with an impressive 26-15 record. That’s seven games better than the Mavs were last year at the midway point.
Doncic said he had no idea he had matched Kidd in one of those high-powered triple-doubles for the ages. He also said he believes he played better than he has in the past few games.
“Obviously, not as good as I can play,” Doncic said. “When they double me every time, I like it.
“Basketball is five players. So somebody is going to be open if they double me.”
Case in point, when two Kings doubled Doncic in the backcourt with less than five seconds remaining in the third quarter, he rose up and found a wide open Justin Jackson, who tossed in a 3-pointer at the buzzer shortly after he dribbled past midcourt.
That put the Mavs ahead, 108-93, and they had to hang on at the end to maneuver their way past the feisty Kings before getting out of town with their third victory in a row.
In all, six Mavs scored at least 14 points as they continue to show that they have strength in numbers. The only downer was that forward Kristaps Porzingis worked out before the game, but wound up missing his ninth straight contest with right knee soreness.
“Just a little bit of a pain on certain movement,” Porzingis said. “I didn’t feel that good out there. I told the medical staff.
“Obviously they’ve been really cautious with everything and they made the decision for me to take some more time (off). I was so hyped today, and yesterday I wanted to play so bad, I was ready to go, but it is what it is. These things happen and we’ve got to think of the long-term and I’ll be fine.”
The Mavs certainly were fine, with Doncic scoring seven points, grabbing four rebounds and distributing five assists in a first quarter that ended with Dallas ahead, 35-31. And when Curry poured in 13 points in the second quarter, the Mavs went to the dressing room nursing a 71-67 lead.
Meanwhile, Doncic tagged the Kings for 11 points, six rebounds and six assists in the third quarter. He was firing laser-like passes all night, including one from the perimeter to Dwight Powell under the basket that turned into an and-one situation.
“He knocked some free throws down, he was comfortable out there, he found guys, he created opportunities for everyone,” Powell said of Doncic. “When he’s out there he draws so much attention and he creates such a problem for them on defense that sometimes they have two guys they have to focus on him, and that frees up the other four guys on the court.
“So a lot of opportunities are there for everyone else just by his presence, let alone his playing, which was great tonight.”
Of course, the Kings had the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft and decided to select Marvin Bagley III over Doncic, who said he doesn’t have any ill-will toward their organization for making such a drastic decision.
“Coming from Europe, it’s different, the draft,” Doncic said. “Everybody pays a lot of attention to the college kids (in the United States), and it’s different in Europe.
“It’s obviously different basketball and I don’t pay attention, honestly.”
The draft notwithstanding, the Kings attempted to pay more attention to Doncic this time around. But to no avail.
“He’s a great young player,” Carlisle said. “I think everybody is running out of accolades.
“At the end of the day the most important thing to him is winning the games. He did some really great things in the fourth quarter to help us get the win, and we’ve got to take this one and build on it.”