LOS ANGELES — Luka Doncic put on a show Tuesday night for the folks at STAPLES Center. So, too, did Kristaps Porzingis.
The Dallas Mavericks’ two marquee players combined for 56 points and 16 rebounds in leading their team to a much-needed 112-104 victory in overtime over the stubborn Los Angeles Clippers. The win salvaged the last game of this four-game road trip for the Mavs, which started off with a pair of disappointing losses in Phoenix and Sunday’s unfortunate loss to the Clippers.
But with Doncic back in the lineup after he missed the previous three contests with sprains in his left knee and left ankle, the Mavs were ready to step up and show out and show the rest of the NBA what they’re truly made of.
And in true fashion, Doncic and Porzingis were show-stoppers in the city where movies and TV shows are made famous.
Doncic finished the night with 26 points, nine rebounds, nine assists, two blocked shots and a technical foul. But it was just the inspiration he gave his teammates that was a focal point, and the headache that he gave the Clippers in the 41 minutes he played.
“He’s only 22 and he understands and has a great feel,” coach Jason Kidd said.” When he knows he has two (defenders) on him, he trusts (his teammates).
“There was a big trust tonight that the other guys were going to make plays. We were playing four on three at times, and that’s just how confident and how much he trusts his teammates being open.”
Going into the game, Doncic didn’t anticipate he would play 41 minutes. But that’s what it took to get the job done and send the Mavs into Thanksgiving with a 10-7 record.
“I was tired,” Doncic said while laughing. “Overtime in the first game back, it was tough. But we got a win and that’s all that matters, so I was happy.”
The Mavs were coasting along with a 102-92 lead with 3:27 remaining in regulation following a dunk by Maxi Kleber. Then, everything that could go wrong for the Mavs, did.
Kleber could have basically iced the game with 2.9 seconds left in regulation. But he split a pair of free throws, leaving the Mavs up 103-100 and the door wide-open for the Clippers to possibly send the game into overtime and finish off an 11-1 run.
And that’s precisely what Paul George did as he buried a three-pointer at the buzzer to draw the Clippers even at 103 and send the game into the extra five-minute overtime period.
“That was a good game,” Kidd said. “That last play George, he’s one of the best players in the league – (and he) makes a tough shot.”
Porzingis, who tallied 30 points and added seven boards, said the Mavs were somewhat flustered that it took overtime to finally put away the pesky Clippers.
“For a second we were like, ‘Damn, we should have finished it right here (in regulation),’ “ Porzingis said. “But I think we’re growing.
“We’re growing as a team mentally and we kind of knew that, ‘OK, if it’s five more minutes, then we’ll go out there and prove that we’re the superior team.’ “
Porzingis led the charge down the stretch for the Mavs as he scored six of the team’s nine overtime points. That included a jack hammer slam and another bucket that put Dallas ahead, 112-104, with 1:09 left in overtime.
“Honestly, it’s just easy opportunities because of Luka,” said Porzingis, who was 9-of-16 from the floor in 40 workmanlike minutes. “When Luka’s out there, he makes the game so much easier for everybody else.
“If they have to double-team him, we just make the next play. I got a couple of offensive boards towards the end, but yeah, it was a great team effort and a great W for us.”
And it was the Mavs’ ever-improving defense that ultimately shackled the Clippers, who shot 41.2 percent from the field and 31.3 percent from downtown.
To illustrate just how impressive the Mavs were on defense, in the overtime session the Clippers had 10 possessions. Eight of them ended with missed shots and the other two ended in turnovers.
The only point the Clippers scored in overtime was a free throw by George after Porzingis was whistled for a technical foul.
“The defense was, I thought, great, for the whole game,” Kidd said. “In that first half we had them right where we wanted them, but we couldn’t make a shot.
And fall they did.
After missing their first 13 shots from three-point land, the Mavs kept draining one three-pointer after another in the second half. If it wasn’t Doncic or Porzingis tickling the twine from deep, it was Dorian Finney-Smith (17 points) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (13 point, five boards) stepping up and producing from long distance.
Meanwhile, Kidd decided to start Willie Cauley-Stein at center in place of Dwight Powell.
“We talked about it, we looked at it yesterday in practice and we thought this would be a good time to make a change,” Kidd said. “DP hasn’t done anything wrong. We just wanted to look at Willie starting.”
Elsewhere, backup point guard Jalen Brunson injured his left foot in the first half and did not return. But Doncic more than made up the slack.
Doncic put his worth on full display all night, especially in the first three-and-a-half minutes of the second half. He opened the third quarter with a lob basket to Finney-Smith and followed that up with a three-pointer.
After that, Doncic successfully negotiated a short drive from the right side of the basket. Then it was back-to-back three-pointers by Porzingis and Doncic that provided the Mavs with their first lead of the game at 57-56 with 8:36 left in the third quarter.
Later on in the third quarter, Doncic lofted an extremely high shot from downtown that found its intended destination and had the crowd oohing. That was followed by a nifty yo-yo shot from Doncic that knotted the game at 70 apiece.
“The last two days before this, (Doncic’s) prep work was at a high level,” Kidd said. “I’m just happy that he was able to go today.
The win made for a very comfortable ride home for the Mavs, who don’t play again until Saturday when they host the Washington Wizards.
“I thought the guys did a great job being able to change coverages on the fly, being able to stay together mentally and physically,” Kidd said. “Because this is the last game of the trip, a lot of times you can just let go of the rope and head home and get ready for Thanksgiving and then start thinking about Saturday’s game.”
Letting go of the rope was not an option for Doncic, who’s dad was in attendance on Tuesday.
“It was special,” Doncic said. “I wanted to play this game really bad. That’s why I got to say the medical staff did a great job. Everybody helped me every day and we made it happen.
“Mentally, I was really happy to be back. I missed basketball.”