Can Luka Doncic produce another legendary performance in Tuesday’s Game 5?
All the adjectives apply to Luka Doncic’s spectacular, sensational and scintillating Game 4 performance on Sunday afternoon. There’s no hyperbole being used here. None!
There’s no overstating how special the 21-year-old Slovenian basketball savant was in the Mavericks’ 135-133 overtime win over the Clippers to knot their best-of-seven series at 2-2 going into tonight’s Game 5.
Doncic sprained his ankle on Friday night in Game 3. The injury left him as a game-time decision before Sunday’s showdown.
Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas’s other star and starting center, was inexplicably a late scratch. (More of my thoughts on this in a minute…)
Therefore, trailing 2-1 to the Clippers in a must-win scenario, Doncic took the court without Porzingis and with only one good ankle. Los Angeles quickly raced out to a 21-point lead in the second quarter, and I’m sure many people felt the series was a wrap.
Doncic, who at the age of 13 in September of 2012 signed a five-year contract with Real Madrid to play for its under-16 and then eventually its under-18 team, had other ideas.
Just two nights before in Game 3, Clippers’ standout power forward Montrezl Harrell had called Doncic a “bitch-ass white boy.” To imply that Harrell woke up a sleeping giant would be completely inaccurate. Doncic was far from asleep. He had led the Mavs to a 127-114 Game 2 win last Wednesday by producing 28 points, eight rebounds and seven assists compared to only one turnover.
Before I go any further, let’s be clear on a few things about Harrell. I’ve been a big fan of his dating back to his collegiate playing days at Louisville. The dude is a stud with a nasty streak and those are the types of players you need to win in the NBA Playoffs.
Furthermore, he just lost his grandmother. Due to her illness and subsequent funeral, Harrell was late getting into the Orlando bubble. His conditioning and overall play isn’t where he wants it to be or where it was before the pandemic hit.
Obviously, that’s no excuse for what came out of his mouth. I’m all for talking shit on the court, presuming race is left out of the equation. I have zero problem with Harrell calling any opponent whatever the hell he wants during the heat and intensity of a postseason game.
But “bitch-ass white boy” with all that’s gone on in this divided country since the brutal murder of George Floyd turned American upside down? Really, Montrezl?
And hey, if you’re going to call somebody by that moniker, guess what? You picked the wrong dude to utter those words towards.
Harrell, who finished with two points, one rebound, one assist and a team-worst -19 plus/minus, found that out — and then some — for the rest of Game 4. Doncic started feeling it in the second quarter. The 21-point deficit was down to eight by intermission.
Doncic was doing everything offensively for Dallas. He was getting wherever the hell he wanted off the dribble, going strong to the rim for baskets and yelling “and one” after every bucket. (For you non-basketball junkies, players say “and one” to imply they should be going to the free-throw line because they got fouled while making the shot.)
Without fans, you could consistently hear Doncic’s emphatic voice, whether he was barking at the officials, encouraging his squad or hinting to his opponents that he wasn’t going to let his team lose. From the couch, his passion and emotion was palpable. You could sense how his play was lifting the intensity of his teammates on the court and from the bench.
Doncic pulled the Mavs to within five and then to four with a pair of buckets early in the third quarter. Then he grabbed a rebound at the defensive end, knifed into the paint before dishing out to Tim Hardaway Jr., who drained a trey to make it a one-point game.
After Dallas took a two-point edge, Doncic ripped Paul George for a steal and a layup gave the Mavs a 77-73 advantage. On the next possession, Doncic left a sick pass for an easy dunk by Boban Marjanovic. Later in the third quarter, Doncic answered baskets from the Clippers by assisting to Hardaway for another 3-ball and Marjanovic for a short jumper.
Lou Williams, who was terrific in the losing effort with 36 points, five assists and four rebounds, scored a bucket to cut the Dallas’ lead to three with 2:19 left in the third. Doncic responded with a short jumper, only to see Williams counter again with a driving layup. When Doncic answered yet again with another basket, it was beyond evident that we had a thriller on our hands.
With 32.6 ticks left in the third stanza, Doncic dribbled into the paint for a pull-up, eight footer. “And One!!” The basket and subsequent free throw after a foul was called on JaMychal Green (From? Alabama!) gave the Mavs a 93-85 lead going into the final quarter.
Rick Carlisle decided to give Doncic a much-needed rest. In his absence, Trey Burke (25 points on 10-of-14 FGAs and 4-of-5 shooting from downtown) and Seth Curry (15 points on 6-of-9 FGAs) helped increase the lead to 106-96 before Doncic came back in with 8:33 remaining.
Dallas had a nine-point lead before Williams keyed a 6-0 run to slice the deficit to three with 4:35 left. But Doncic countered with a step-back 3-ball to push the lead back to six. After a Williams layup made it 113-109, Doncic buried another step-back triple from 30 feet.
However, the Clippers outscored the Mavs 12-5 in the final 3:06 of regulation to force overtime. With 50 seconds left in the extra session, Doncic hit a floater to tie the game at 130-130. After a Clippers’ timeout, Kawhi Leonard missed a mid-range jumper and Doncic pulled down the rebound.
Showing off his sick handles, Doncic used a pick-and-roll play to get to the rim and an easy finish for a 132-130 lead with 19 seconds remaining. The Clippers went to Leonard on the ensuing possession. As he dribbled into the lane, he found Marcus Morris for a clean look at a trey from the corner. It was all nylon and the Clippers were back in front by one with 9.6 ticks left.
After a timeout, L.A. used its final foul to give (before the Mavs would be in the penalty and get two free throws on any foul) on Doncic with 3.7 seconds remaining. Carlisle then used his final timeout with his team facing an inbound from the sideline.
Leonard switched on the screen that popped Doncic free from deep on the left wing. Now Reggie Jackson was defending him. Jackson, who was nothing but bait on a hook at this point, had to respect Doncic’s ability to penetrate since the Mavs didn’t have to have a 3-pointer.
With the poise of a 15-year veteran, Doncic knew exactly how much time he had for several misdirection dribbles before stepping back for a clean look from the time line. And this is what happened below…
LUKA. DONCIC. DAGGER. 🗡
Mavs (+260) ML cashes in an absolute OT thriller pic.twitter.com/dheWZmyVs0
— br_betting (@br_betting) August 23, 2020
All nets. Actually, he caught a little rim, but he’s forgiven. That’s Game!
My instant twitter reaction was this:
Would not let his team get beat tonight. #Luka
— Brian Edwards Sports (@vegasbedwards) August 23, 2020
Dallas won outright as a seven-point underdog, cashing +260 money-line tickets. Doncic finished with 43 points, 17 rebounds, 13 assists, two steals and one blocked shot. He joined Oscar Robertson (1963) and Charles Barkley (1993) as the only players to ever go for 43-15-10 in an NBA postseason game.
With apologies to former Cleveland guard Craig Ehlo, only Michael Jordan in an elimination game had hit an NBA Playoffs buzzer beater while trailing in a 40-point performance.
This day in #Bulls history in 1989: The Shot.
Michael Jordan hit one of the most iconic buzzer beaters as the Bulls defeated the Cavaliers. pic.twitter.com/rSPl75WJ2e
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) May 7, 2017
Just off the top of my head, Doncic’s incredible effort reminded me of a few others. Considering the ankle injury, it conjured up memories of Isaiah Thomas against the Lakers at the Fabulous Forum in Westwood during the 1988 NBA Finals more than three decades ago. Limping badly, Thomas scored 25 points in the third quarter and finished with 43 in Game 6 of a 103-102 loss.
It also reminded me of MJ’s 63 against the Celtics and Dominique Wilkins’s 47 in the 1988 East semifinals (in that epic fourth-quarter battle with Larry Bird) at the old Boston Garden. However, like Thomas, Jordan and Wilkins’s team lost those games.
Others? Maybe MJ’s flu (or was it food poisoning?) game at the Delta Center against the Jazz in the NBA Finals? Perhaps Jordan’s shrug-of-the-head game when he blasted Portland with seven 3-pointers in the first quarter, although that game lacked drama compared to these aforementioned thrillers? Robert Horry’s overall stat lines certainly can’t match Luka’s from this past Sunday, but he did he hit a plethora of game-winning shots during his storied career that ended with rings galore in his possession. (The one to beat Sacramento at Staples Center in Game 4 of the West finals was probably the most pivotal one, coming after refs refused to put Sacramento’s Mike Bibby on the foul line after he was assaulted on previous possessions without one whistle.)
As we look to tonight’s Game 5, Dallas is an eight-point underdog. The Mavs were catching seven until Porzingis was ruled ‘out’ (again!) due to knee soreness.
I’ll be the first one to call myself out if I’m wrong on this and there’s suddenly some serious issue with Porzingis’s knee, BUT I find it unfathomable that he can’t even suit up and be available with all the money he makes.
There’s good news for Doncic, though, as Clippers’ elite defender Patrick Beverley is ‘doubtful’ after missing the entire series to date. The updated series price is Clippers -340, with the Mavs +260 on the comeback.
How bad is Paul George struggling in this series? With a hat tip to ESPN Stats & Info (via ELIAS), he is the first player to shoot under 25% in three straight playoff games since Bob Cousy in 1960 (on a minimum of 10 field-goal attempts per game).
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
–The ‘over’ is on an 8-2 run for the Clippers in their last 10 games. Dallas has seen the ‘over’ cash at a 7-2 clip in its past nine contests. Tonight’s total is 235 points.
–The ‘over’ has cashed at an 11-1 clip for Denver in 12 games since the restart. Those combined scores have been 260, 226, 235, 245, 266, 240, 258, 234, 230, 229, 211 (the lone ‘under’) and 256 points. The ‘over’ is also on an 8-2 run for the Jazz, who lead the series 3-1 going into tonight’s Game 5 as a three-point favorite. The total is 220 points.
–Damian Lillard’s chances of playing in Game 5 vs. the Lakers on Wednesday aren’t looking good. Portland is awaiting the results of a second MRI on his knee. The Lakers have won three in a row over the Trail Blazers since dropping the series opener. They’re 12.5-point favorites for Game 5.
–Toronto’s Kyle Lowry (ankle) is ‘questionable’ for Thursday’s series opener vs. Boston. The Raptors are two-point favorites.
–LOVED Kendrick Perkins’s reaction to Dallas winning Game 4!
Steve Balmer instead of having a Pep Rally you might wanna take your team to church and have a coming to Jesus Meeting…because Luka and these Mavs are not PLAYING with y’all! Carry on… pic.twitter.com/kyAXysMWpB
— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) August 23, 2020
–Perkins is hilarious!
–Here were the Westgate SuperBook’s updated future odds going into Monday’s games:
NBA Championship updated
Trail Blazers 80/1
— Jeff Sherman (@golfodds) August 24, 2020
–I’ve had worse (NFL) Sundays in terms of the amount of damage to my pockets, but (even with lesser stakes) I’m not sure the results of Sunday’s trio of 3-pointers with 1.1 seconds left or fewer that each beat me have ever left me more frustrated:
It was a Bad Beat Sunday from Hell for This Guy. I had five plays lose on 3's w/ 1.1 seconds left or fewer.
#1, 2 & 3: In 1H, took C's -6.5, -5.5 & -4.5 in-game. Embiid 3 w/ 1.1 left. C's win by 4.
#4: ML parlay C's, Jazz & Clips: Luka trey
#5: Jazz -3, Jamal Murray w/ 0.5 left
— Brian Edwards Sports (@vegasbedwards) August 24, 2020
–As always, though, it’s on to the next ones. Good luck to all with their wagers tonight and this week.