SAN ANTONIO – After he got inadvertently hit on it twice, Luka Doncic’s left thumb was in excruciating pain for the remainder of Wednesday night’s game against the San Antonio Spurs.
So much so that on one routine drive late in the fourth quarter, Doncic simply lost the ball out of bounds while trying to execute a routine dribble he’s done thousands of times with his left hand.
That was about all that went wrong for Doncic on a night when he registered his franchise-record-tying 21st triple-double in helping the Dallas Mavericks stave off a furious rally by the Spurs and emerge with a 109-103 victory at AT&T Center.
In the opener of this four-game road trip that continues Friday in Miami, the Mavs increased their record to 36-23, going 13 games over .500 for the first time this season. But they had to do some passionate work down the stretch to get there as the Spurs overcame a 19-point second-quarter deficit and took a brief two-point lead in the fourth quarter before the Mavs finally slammed the door on their I-35 rivals.
“First of all it was a great win,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “This is always as hard a place as there is to come to play.
“We played exceptionally well during some stretches, and then we let it get away from us a couple of times – two or three times. But we always responded the right way.”
Credit the brilliance of Doncic, who played his final game before he turns 21 on Friday. En route to tying Jason Kidd for the Mavs’ career lead in triple-doubles, the second-year point guard engineered a 12-0 run that shook the Mavs loose from a 96-all tie with 4:01 left, putting them up 108-96 with just 1:52 remaining in the game.
Doncic started the decisive rally by firing a pass which Kristaps Porzingis gathered and scored — he also completed a three-point play after being fouled. Doncic followed that by assisting on a pair of traditional 3-pointers by Porzingis and Seth Curry. Then, Doncic wrapped a bow around his big night by banging in a 3-pointer and sending most of the sellout crowd of 18,354 scrambling to the exits.
“We did win this game, so we’re going to learn about it,” said Doncic, who finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists in collecting his 13th triple-double this season. “It’s not always going to be perfect, but we’re learning.”
Doncic went to the dressing room late in the first quarter after one of the Spurs hit his hand while trying to dislodge the basketball. However, he returned in the second quarter with his thumb wrapped.
But in the second half, Doncic’s left thumb got whacked again. However, this time he stayed in the game and fought through the pain.
“It hurts,” Doncic said. “I got hit twice. I got slapped on the hand. (The referees) thought it was ball.”
Asked about the diagnosis of his thumb, Doncic said: “I don’t know yet. We’re going to check it, but I don’t think it’s going to be serious
“I came back in the game because I could. I don’t usually use my left hand, so I’m glad it’s not on the right (hand).”
Porzingis had gotten the Mavs off to a terrific start when his 16 points led to a 28-15 lead. That lead swelled to 33-16 late in the first quarter and to as high as 39-20 after J. J. Barea tossed in a 3-pointer early in the second.
But the Spurs (24-33) whittled the deficit to 59-49 at the half and eventually took a 90-89 lead following a Trey Lyles 3-pointer with 6:16 left in the game.
After some back-and-forth muscling by both teams, the Mavs finally took control of the game behind some solid execution on offense and defense and finally won in a clutch situation where they have not fared so well this season.
“For us, we kind of have this confidence, especially at the end of games, too, on the road, where we’re going to be able to score,” Porzingis said. “Toward the end of the game we also turned up the pressure defensively, and we were able to get stops.
“One of the important things we do is we stay calm. We don’t overreact, we don’t start yelling. We just calm down and make sure we get stops and then do what we do on offense.”
Porzingis did what he does and finished with game highs of 28 points and 12 rebounds to go with three blocks and two steals. Meanwhile Tim Hardaway Jr. had 17 points and Dorian Finney-Smith added 14 points.
“We’re a young team that’s continually growing and learning about each other, about playing in tough competitive situations,” Carlisle said. “We’re battling for playoff position and we’re fighting to prepare ourselves for the playoffs.
“This was a really good experience. I was really happy for them the way they won the game.”