When Luka Doncic posted a 60-point, 20-rebound, 10-assist triple double last season in a miraculous win against the New York Knicks, I wrote about how nothing about Doncic is all that surprising. So is Doncic making four straight three pointers, score 14 of the Mavericks final 17 points, and pull a sure defeat into a victory surprising? Not really, I guess. But damn, if it wasn’t still all the more breathtaking.
Doncic has pulled a lot of rabbits out of a lot of hats during his time in Dallas. It started his rookie year, when he single-handedly buried the Houston Rockets in the fourth quarter with a personal 11-0 run. We saw it in his first playoff series, drilling a game winning three in Game 4 of the first round against the Clippers. During the first half of last season, Doncic was basically doing is magic routine every other night as he had to carry a depleted roster.
Friday night’s win against the Nets though, sheesh. I’ve seen a lot of magical Luka moments, but I’m not sure I’ve seen him use the jaws of life to escape a defeat quite like that. With the Nets scorching the Nets in the fourth, Doncic just evenly matched every made three with one of his own. Not only did he score all the points, but he basically did it all on his own, doing the things the fan base and pundits have groaned about the last few years, with a mucked up offense forcing Doncic to bail it out.
First he made a step-back three from the right wing. Then he caught the ball with the shot clock dwindling, jab-stepped, then canned another three. After that, he drilled another step back, but this one from the left-wing, seemingly because he wanted a little variety in his shot diet. Finally, the pièce de résistance — a bonkers, contested, desperation hook shot three that banked in perfectly off the glass.
The last one was an all-timer. Once again the Mavericks offense was dead in the water as the Nets sold out to make sure Doncic didn’t have the ball for a clean look and every other Maverick player was seemingly terrified to do something with the ball. The team just hot potato’d the ball back to Doncic and he flipped in one of his most audacious shots of his career — and remember, that career includes his wild, floating game-winning three against Memphis in 2021, his teardrop three from the baseline to send a game against Portland to overtime in his rookie season, or his ridiculous put-back off an intentionally missed free throw at the end of regulation to tie the Knicks last season.
Perhaps I’m living in the honeymoon phase of having just watched this shot, but I might rank this one number one in terms of impact and improbability. Brooklyn basically pitched a perfect game defensively down the stretch and Doncic just snatched their souls time after time after time. To toss in this game-winner, after making three straight threes before this? Goodness. That’s cold. And maybe a little mean, too.
This shot requires a closer look.
With 2.2 seconds left on the shot clock, Doncic isn’t even look at the rim yet! He almost has his entire back turned to the basket, with a second defender coming to double. The Nets basically have exactly what they want, defensively.
Perhaps the only thing the Nets did “wrong” was the double wasn’t really strong. To be fair to Royce O’Neale, he probably thought he didn’t need to do much more. Look at Dorian Finney-Smith’s contest here — Doncic has zero air space, with Finney-Smith’s near seven foot wingspan fully extended. Who knows if Doncic can even see the rim at this point.
To me, this is the most preposterous part of the entire shot. Look where the ball bounced off the backboard. I have it circled in red to help, since the ball is a bit blurry in the image. It’s basically the perfect spot you’d want the ball to hit if you were trying to bank in a shot from that distance on the right side of the floor. Doncic kisses it right off the top-right square of the backboard and the ball floats into the net with a near-perfect swish. This wasn’t some banker that rattled in and rolled home with some lucky shooter’s bounce — if you didn’t see any footage of how this shot started, and just saw the moment right before the ball hits the backboard and goes through the net, you’d almost think this was done on purpose. That’s how perfect of a bank shot this is. I assume Doncic didn’t intend to bank this shot in specifically, but this is still insane.
That’s just how these Doncic magic tricks go, he keeps progressively one-upping himself at every turn. The Mavericks are 2-0 and have needed Luka Magic to get each win — Doncic scored 10 points in the fourth quarter against the Spurs on Wednesday, and scored 14 points in the fourth quarter against the Nets. Eventually the Mavericks will needed to find a way to win games without Doncic putting on his superhero cape, but for now, the Mavericks will take these wins in a loaded Western Conference anyway they can get them.