LOS ANGELES – Luka Doncic continues to be the talk of the NBA this season with the way he’s putting up video game-type numbers and doing it with relative ease.
And he’s also doing all of these magic tricks while putting the Dallas Mavericks in position to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since the 2015-’16 season.
In his latest jaw-dropping performance, Doncic scored a career-high tying 42 points, pulled down nine rebounds and dispensed 11 assists while leading the Mavs to a come-from-behind 120-113 victory over the Suns in Phoenix on Friday night. It was his third 40-point, 10-assist game in the last six contests.
By contrast, no other Mavs has ever had a 40-point, 10-assist game. And Doncic has as many 40-point, 10-assist games (three) as any other member of the Mavs have 30-point, 10-assist games in a single season.
Also, Stephen Curry and Chris Paul only have three career 40-point, 10-assist games, and Magic Johnson finished his illustrious Hall of Fame career with just two.
“He drew a lot of contact (and) got to the line 18 times, so anybody who gets to the line that many times is going to be tough to stop,” Suns guard Devin Booker said. “But he made the right play a lot of the times too, made the right passes. We knew that going in.
“(He’s a) really good player and we had a tough time slowing him down (Friday).”
Save for a couple of games, it’s the same ‘ol sad song opposing coaches and players have been singing all season. They fire up the film on Doncic, dissect his game to its lowest common denominator, devise a supposedly full-proof game plan to contain hm, and he shatters it into itty-bitty pieces.
Before the Mavs hosted Cleveland on Nov. 22, Cavaliers coach John Beilein said: “We certainly have to do our best to stay in front of Doncic. He’s on an incredible run right now.
“We’ll try a bunch of different things against him. But he just makes the game look so easy it’s hard to defend.”
Doncic wound up playing just 28 minutes in the Mavs’ 143-101 win over the Cavs and he finished with 30 points, seven rebounds and 14 assists and did not play in the fourth quarter. It’s been that kind of dominant Most Valuable Player-type year for Doncic, who is only 20 years old.
In fact, Doncic became just the third player in NBA history to average a 30-point triple-double in a calendar month when he averaged 32.4 points, 10.3 rebounds and 10.4 assists in the 14 games the Mavs played in November. The only other players who have a seat at the table in that exclusive class are Oscar Robertson – he achieved this feat five times – and Russell Westbrook, who did it twice.
Even coach Rick Carlisle is seemingly running out of superlatives to describe what Doncic has been able to achieve.
“It’s surprising, but it’s not shocking,” Carlisle said. “He’s just an exceptional player, an exceptional person and he’s exceptionally tough.
“You don’t find that combination in 20-year old guys coming into the NBA very often. But he’s having a spectacular year. Just absolutely breath-taking.”
Doncic was definitely breath-taking on Nov. 20 when the Mavs routed the Golden State Warriors, 142-94. In just 26 minutes in that game, Doncic tallied 35 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and distributed 11 assists.
“It’s hard to stop a guy like that,” Warriors forward Eric Paschall said before that game. “Once he gets going like that from three and uses his ability to pass the ball, it’s hard to stop him.
“I feel like we just got to keep trying to make him uncomfortable in any type of way, but the reality about that is he’s so dominant at such a young age. He’s a heck of a player. It shows every night.”
It also showed the night the Mavs met LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers back on Nov. 1 in Dallas. While James finished with 39 points, 12 rebounds and 16 assists during the Lakers’ 119-110 overtime victory, Doncic also finished with a triple-double as he contributed 31 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists.
Afterwards, James could be heard telling Doncic: “You’re a bad (expletive delete).”
The rematch between Doncic and James will occur Sunday at 3 p.m. CT when the Mavs (12-6) face the Lakers (17-2) at Staples Center, and it promises to be anything any Hollywood director could dream of.
“I look forward to any game,” Doncic said. “Obviously it’s special to play the Lakers.
“You know it’s going to be fun to watch.”
Meanwhile, judging by fan reaction – even those fans in enemy arenas – it’s been fun watching Doncic not only learn the NBA game, but carve out his own niche in the history books at such an impressionable tender age.
Of course, after Doncic was the MVP in the EuroLeague in 2018 while leading Real Madrid to that league’s championship, he’s been able to showcase his wares on the biggest basketball stage in the world with seemingly few problems. Last year Doncic was the runaway winner of the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award, and now he’s squarely in the middle of the conversation to capture the league’s MVP award.
Wilt Chamberlain (1960) and Wes Unseld (1969) are the only NBA players to capture Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season, while Bob Pettit (1955 and ‘56) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1970 and ’71) are the only two players to win Rookie of the Year and MVP in consecutive seasons.
After the Los Angeles Clippers ganged up on Doncic and held him to 22 points on 4-of-14 shooting this past Tuesday, Clippers forward Paul George walked away showing high praise and admiration for the Mavs’ point guard.
“I think that’s what makes it so impressive, because he’s doing it, but he doesn’t know what he’s doing — if you get what I’m saying,” George said. “He’s still a baby.
“He’s got so much that he’s going to grow. He’s really going to figure it out and he’s already doing amazing right now. It’s going to be scary when he fully figures it out and he starts to really hit his prime.”