In an opening night game that saw the debut of Kristaps Porzingis alongside Luka Doncic, Courtney Lee as a starter, and Rick Carlisle nabbing his first technical of the season, one thing became glaringly apparent in the fourth quarter of the Dallas Mavericks 108-100 victory: Doncic will be getting every opponent’s best shot.
For the first three quarters Luka Doncic, the reigning Rookie of the Year, got pretty much whatever he wanted against a sloppy and inexperienced Washington Wizards squad. For long stretches he was defended by Isaac Bonga, a second year player appearing in just his 23rd NBA game. Doncic had his way, with 32 points through three quarters.
But when he entered for the first time in the fourth quarter with 5:57 left, the Wizards made an adjustment, putting Bradley Beal on Luka. And Beal did his best to not just make it difficult for Doncic to get to his spots, but to push him off his mental game.
This isn’t the first time this has happened with the young star. Heck, this isn’t the first time this season, with Doncic getting in some minor spats in the preseason. It won’t be the last, either.
One of the best parts of Luka’s game is the passion he plays with, the energy and fire that he throws at opponents. But already in his young NBA career it’s clear that when teams don’t know how to actually stop him, they will try to agitate. And for a brief moment tonight Doncic let it get to him, allowing some emotion to control a key part of the game. Ultimately, with just over a minute left, Luka had the last laugh (via @Sportinfosi).
Guys have been going hard at Doncic during preseason already and it was the same in the season opener. Beal's been going at Luka especially hard on both ends of the court. This is how it ended between them... pic.twitter.com/mCMbYaGpkr— Sportinfo.si (@Sportinfosi) October 24, 2019
Postgame Luka didn’t take it personally saying about Beal, “It’s just basketball, I like the way he plays...on the floor you don’t have friends, it’s just basketball.” It’s been said plenty over the last year-plus in Dallas, but Doncic’s maturity is clear, and his approach to the game is nearly unseen for his age (via @espn_macmahon).
It got chippy between them, but Bradley Beal has no beef with Luka Doncic. “It’s just goops,” Beal said. “He’s got a bright future. He’s very mature for his age. He’s been a pro since he was 10 probably. He knows what he’s doing.” pic.twitter.com/s6VlIr9tPu— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) October 24, 2019
That aside, this will likely be a nightly occurrence for the Mavericks superstar. And on nights when defenders simply can’t disrupt his game, they will turn to the brain and try to knock him off balance. For Doncic, it’s just one more obstacle as he ascends the NBA ladder.