This has been a weird season for Luka Doncic. He’s shooting a career-worst 30 percent from three, his two point percentage is the worst it’s been since his rookie year, yet he’s still dominating the box score and leading the Mavericks to wins — Doncic’s 25.5 points, 8.7 assists and 8.9 rebounds per game falls right in line with his previous two seasons and the Mavericks are 28-21, making a run at the four seed, which would be the highest seeding for the Mavericks led by Doncic.
Wednesday night thankfully didn’t have any of that weirdness. Doncic dissected the Trail Blazers in a way only Doncic could. Luka only scored 15 points on 11 shots, but he had 15 assists and some of his passes were the best he’s had all season.
This game had it all: Doncic going behind-the-back in the pick and roll to his big man for a layup, a handful of brilliant alley-oop passes, and of course, the staple, Doncic firing bullets into the corner for threes. There were moments in this game, among the step-back threes and highlight reel passes, that it felt like Doncic was in his own All-Star game. There was a bounce and spark to his game Wednesday night that hasn’t been there all season. This was fun, when some Mavericks games have been decidedly not that.
There were two passes in particular that raised eyebrows, so let’s just loop these as gifs for all of eternity or till the earth melts. These passes were made better by the fact that they happened on back-to-back possessions.
The first, this outstanding no-look alley-oop to Dwight Powell.
It’s amazing how well Doncic can throw off a defense with a dribble move, head turn or where he’s looking. NBA players love throwing fake no-look passes, turning their heads after the pass is well on its way, but Doncic manipulates NBA defenses with his eyes almost as much as NFL quarterbacks.
The next one is this beauty to Reggie Bullock in the corner for a three pointer.
These Doncic passes are always my favorite. Fooling a defense with a behind-the-back pass or a no-look feed is always good fun, but there’s something about these types of plays, the cross-court whip to the corner, that feels especially cool. In these scenarios, the defense isn’t really getting fooled — Doncic is just exploiting them by sheer talent. Portland set up its defense like this on purpose, allowing Bullock to be open, trying to load up the strong side to prevent an easy Doncic drive. Almost always, Doncic makes this pass. Doncic doesn’t really trick the defense when he makes these passes, he’s simply breaking them. Funny enough, Doncic seems to do this to Portland a lot.
Despite a few speed bumps the last couple of weeks against the Knicks and Warriors, the Mavericks are still running it up in the win column. They amazingly still sit in fifth place in the Western Conference, but for the first time in weeks, fourth place is within reach. If Doncic keeps doing what he did against the Trail Blazers, it’s unlikely the Mavericks cool off anytime soon.
Here’s our latest episode of Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you’re unable to see the embed below, click here to be taken to the podcast directly. Or go to your favorite podcast app and search Mavs Moneyball Podcast.