In the political world, Super Tuesday was a day ago when the Democrats held their all-important primaries that drew nationwide attention.
In the NBA world, Super Wednesday happened at American Airlines Center between the Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Pelicans, as the basketball world was centered on these up-and-coming franchises. And the two clubs didn’t disappoint as they combined to put on a super-charged show.
Mavs point guard Luka Doncic registered his franchise-record 22nd career triple-double and wound up pacing Dallas to a hard-fought 127-123 triumph in overtime over the Pelicans. In surpassing Jason Kidd for the franchise lead in triple-doubles, Doncic collected 30 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists, a rock-solid performance that had the sellout crowd of 20,459 clamoring for more.
Meanwhile, Zion Williamson – the Pelicans rookie sensation and No. 1 overall pick in last summer’s NBA Draft – finished with 21 points and six rebounds, and had five of his nine missed field goals blocked by a Mavs’ squad that collected 13 blocks. A total of 11 blocks came in the first half, which was a franchise record for the most blocks in any half by the Mavs.
“It was a playoff-caliber game really from start to finish,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “It was close the whole way, crowd, national TV, back-and-forth, great plays both ways, great experience for our guys.”
The win, however, was a costly one for the Mavs, who lost forward Dorian Finney-Smith to a right hip flexor after he played just nine minutes. Carlisle said he didn’t know the extent of Finney-Smith’s injury, or a timetable for his return.
Also, Doncic had X-rays after the game on the left thumb that he sprained a week ago against the San Antonio Spurs. X-rays, though, were negative.
“It bothers me – it hurts,” Doncic said. “But I can play with it. I just got to fight through it.”
Nicolo Melli sent the game into overtime deadlocked at 112 when he buried a 3-pointer with 7.4 seconds left in regulation over the outstretched arms of 7-3 Kristaps Porzingis.
“That was an unbelievable shot, because KP was there,” Carlisle said. “He just threw it up higher and that’s what got it to overtime. It was a slugfest all the way.”
Of course, the fans jammed into AAC to see how Doncic would fare against Williamson, although the two weren’t guarding each other. Both players brought some pizzazz to the table, but it was Doncic and the Mavs who were able to grind out a victory after suffering a 109-107 loss in Chicago on Monday.
“I think Luka’s a great player,” Williamson said. “I don’t think he ever tries to do things he can’t do.
“He’s always getting in his spots, he’s always creating for his teammates. It shows. You’ve got to respect him.”
The Pelicans also had to respect Porzingis, who collected 34 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots and made life tough for Williamson during his many forays inside the paint. And it was a pair of free throws by Porzingis with 8.6 seconds remaining that accounted for the game’s final points and finally put this one on ice.
But it was mostly Maxi Kleber who had his hands full trying to contain Williamson, who is listed graciously at 284 pounds and frequently attacks the basket with a lot of the same aggression of a mountain lion trapped in a cage.
“I thought Kleber did as good a job (guarding Williamson) as you can do just holding ground and trying to make it difficult,” Carlisle said. “We’re talking about a guy that just has unprecedented strength and explosiveness, and a great basketball feel.
“He’s a great, great, great young player, and they do all the right things in terms of how to get him the ball and utilizing his quickness and speed in transition.”
Williamson acknowledged that the Mavs did a masterful job in bottling him up. Especially since he’s probably as physical as some of the players that often chase Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Patrick Mahomes, who was sitting courtside.
“Yeah, I am used to the physicality,” Williamson said. “They were very physical. I’ve just got to make better reads.”
Kleber, meanwhile, had some purple discoloring on his shoulder from the obvious banging he took from Williamson.
“My legs are a little bit heavy right now,” said Kleber, who had five points, seven rebounds, five blocks and four assists. “Obviously he’s a strong heavy dude, so it’s a lot of work to keep him away from the basket.
“He’s still going to get there, but you try your best. We don’t want to give him easy looks.”
Doncic drilled a 3-pointer that put Dallas ahead, 121-118, with 1:09 left in overtime.
A pair of free throws by Tim Hardaway (18 points) gave the Mavs some breathing room and a 125-121 lead with 13 seconds to go. But Williamson countered with a quick driving layup with 10.5 seconds left before Porzingis, who was 14-of-28 from the field, sealed it for the Mavs with those two late charity tosses.
“He did a great job,” Carlisle said of Doncic. “The step-back three was a huge shot.
“He got to the rim and made a couple of free throws (in overtime), which was big.”
Some sizzling shooting from Seth Curry – he was 6-of-9 from downtown and finished with 21 points – helped keep the Mavs afloat, and offset the 27 points from Brandon Ingram and 25 points from Lonzo Ball.
And in addition to Doncic, the Pelicans (26-36) also had difficulties dealing with Porzingis, who wound up registering a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double for the fourth consecutive game. It’s a streak Porzingis also pieced together earlier this season.
“Hey look, (Doncic is) running the show with KP,” Carlisle said. “That’s how we play it.
“Every once in a while I’ll throw a play-call out there for those guys if they’re looking for one, but this is where that group has to continue to grow and learn. They had great success tonight.”
It certainly was great for the fans, who will likely forever remember this Super Wednesday for all of its super-charged moments.