Look, let’s not kid ourselves — life sucks.
Hold on, stay with me though. There is Luka Doncic. Doncic is very good, as evidenced by his 32-point, 9-rebound, 6-assist night against the Celtics on Monday. Luka had it all in Boston, despite the tough loss for the Mavericks. Something he particularly had? His exquisite passing to the corners.
When I first started watching Doncic video months before the Mavericks eventually traded up to draft him in 2018, the first thing that jumped out to me was how Doncic had that one-handed cross-court laser to the corner that LeBron James has perfected over the last decade. Doncic is brilliant at finding shooters in the corners and that was never more clear than what he did against the Celtics. Let’s take a look at some of the best ones.
At full speed, this one perhaps isn’t that impressive. Doncic floats it above Dorian Finney-Smith’s pocket, forcing him to reach up to grab the pass before firing. The hang time also allows Kemba Walker more time to close out. Take a closer look, however, and it’s pretty bonkers.
Here is Luka, on the move, being doubled by Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis, creating a relatively open three-point look with a one-handed pass. For most NBA players, this ball goes into the third row. For Doncic, it’s just a slightly off-target pass that gets his teammate a good look.
This one is super fun because of how Doncic manipulates the Celtics defense. Jaylen Brown is covering Finney-Smith in the corner and Doncic, in another trap, looks Brown off by looking at Powell in the lane, freeing up Finney-Smith for the clean look which he converts. Look how Doncic makes Boston lean one way before firing the pass another. His eyes are pointed toward Powell as he makes this pass.
The next two are beauties to Maxi Kleber when Luka started to get into a groove and play a brilliant stretch that helped push the Mavericks back into the game after another sluggish start to a third quarter.
In this first one, it shows just how much attention Doncic commands. The Mavericks roster past their two young stars doesn’t have a great reputation. Defenses would much rather guys like Finney-Smith, Kleber, Dwight Powell or Tim Hardaway Jr. beat them with the ball in their hands. Walker even sees it coming before Luka drives, leaves Brunson and Luka is still able to get through two guys before drawing a third at the rim and delivering the goods to Kleber.
This one is final form Luka. He shakes Robert Williams with a nifty behind the back dribble before looking off the defender again. Luka glances at Haradway on the wing, Brad Wanamaker bites and Luka delivers a literal perfect pass to Kleber for another three. It’s wild how many points Luka can manufacture just with his eyes.
And if you were wondering if Luka knew how good he was right then and there, well...
Unfortunately for how good Luka was, he can’t put the ball in the basket for his teammates. Finney-Smith was 1-of-5 and Hardaway 1-of-7 from deep as the Mavericks couldn’t hit enough to keep pace when Walker went lava in the fourth quarter. If the Mavericks make the playoffs, those guys have to make shots. As Monday night showed, Luka will keep creating them.