How long are the Mavs going to keep doing this? We’re 11 years removed from 2011 (almost 12), and the organization still has a franchise player surrounded with just enough talent to keep him from demanding a trade. If you missed it, Luka Dončić broke the Dallas record for points in a single game, pouring in 60 points, 21 rebounds, and 10 assists in a 126-121 overtime win against New York on Tuesday.
The Knicks blew a nine-point lead in less than 40 seconds, and the chaos culminated with Dončić intentionally missing a free throw and corralling it after a tip for a catch-and-shoot 11-footer to send the game to an extra period.
As you’d expect, the home announcers were absolutely giddy, talking about the performance on air as if they were a couple of friends reminiscing about an epic night out. And it should be celebrated. I don’t care how much Dončić handles the ball, or his astronomical usage rate. There gets to be a point when the analytics guys need to enjoy the box score on the surface.
A 23-year-old breaking the previous team record for points in a game (54) and doing it with a 60-piece is absurd. He was 21-of-31 from the field, and 16-of-22 from the free throw line. Dončić hit the only bucket the Mavs made in OT, but it didn’t really matter as New York spent the final five minutes of the contest wandering around the floor with guts in hand like it was the first 20 minutes of “Saving Private Ryan.”
The game probably wouldn’t have been as close as it was had Jalen Brunson not been in street clothes. If not for the heroics and collapse, Dallas would only be a game above .500. That’s what great players do though, and anyone who’s rooted for a team with a guy in the same neighborhood as Luka, but not much else, knows what kind of heater a guy can get on when he’s got to do everything every night. At best, the surrounding pieces are complementary. And if we’re being honest, that’s kind of a stretch.
That’s why the home crew was 100 percent serious when they yelled “I just want Luke to take every shot” during the last stages of the comeback. I wouldn’t want Christian Wood or Spencer Dinwiddie touching the ball either. When a player is as talented as Dončić, they know who they can trust, and it takes an extremely worthy running mate to earn that level of respect.
I’ve written about Dončić’s James Harden impression this year, and so has Criss Partee. He actually joined The Beard as the only player in NBA history with a 60-point triple-double. Not even Wilt Chamberlain did that. Dončić did join a Wilt club however as only Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor have posted 50-20-10 or better in a game.
The stats are insane and also are a function of the system Dončić is in and the roster he’s on. Jason Kidd knows the best path to winning as currently constructed is to grind out every possession and either extend the lead enough to coast in the fourth, or make sure Dončić has enough in the tank to pull goddamned wins out of thin air. That’s what happened Tuesday night, and thank god, because getting beat by a Brunson-less Knicks team would’ve been peak irony for the Mavs.
Instead, Dončić bailed them out and the narrative is back to this incredible year he’s having. Has he taken another leap, or did the Mavs simply take a step backward? Both are probably true, and it’s frustrating because he deserves better than to be saddled with a roster that’d be in the fucking lottery without him.