By Antonis Stroggylakis/ email@example.com
Luka Doncic couldn’t have delivered a better response to his exclusion from the list of the 2020 MVP finalists.
Few hours after the NBA announced a Doncic-less list of this season’s final three MVP candidates, the Slovenian point forward produced another outstanding triple-double – his 17th this season – by scoring 36 points, dishing out a career-high 19 assists and grabbing 14 rebounds as the Dallas Mavericks beat Eastern Conference leaders Milwaukee Bucks 136 – 132 in overtime.
The number of players in NBA history who finished a game with 36 points, 19 assists and 14 rebounds before Doncic is exactly… zero. That’s right. Doncic became the only one to ever notch these numbers in a single NBA match, per Mavs PR.
After making triple-doubles something akin to day-to-day, office-going routine, it looks like Doncic has taken up the challenge of constantly creating headlines in the spirit of “became the first player…” to do this or “the youngest player ever…” to do that.
Record-setting triumphs aside, it was exactly the kind of performance that further strengthens Doncic’s argument of deserving to be in the final list of MVP candidates. The prolific scoring was there and his rebounds collection was huge again, but what stood out more than anything was that superb passing clinic. Not simply the crazy amount of assists but how his dime-dropping was completely elevating the Mavericks game to another level. An exhibition of MVP material of the highest caliber.
Doncic’s 19 assists, apart from a personal best, were a highlight-packed and playmaking spectacle to behold. A seminar on reading all fractions of each play to prevision its development, accurately and quickly pinpointing the details and x-raying every single situation to make the most out of it.
“He knows where everybody is not only on offense but on defense. That’s the sign of a savant type guy,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said in a zoom call after the game. “I’ve played with Larry Bird. He could see everything like that. I had the privilege of coaching Jason Kidd. He could see everything like that. Luka is in that same mold.”
The icing on the cake of Doncic’s new triple-double festival was the two turnovers he committed during the 42 minutes he spent on the court. A feat against an elite defensive team such as the Bucks.
“These two past teams are really remarkable. Both teams will turn you over, both teams have guys that will deflect and get their hands on a lot of balls,” Carlisle said, referring also to the Los Angeles Clippers that his team lost to on Friday.
Reigning MVP and leading candidate in the run for this year’s award Giannis Antetokounmpo also emphasized on Doncic’s ability to lift his team’s overall performance.
“One of the most talented guys I’ve ever played against,” Giannis said. “He’s making the whole team better and he’s going to keep getting better. As long as he makes his team better, they’re going to be tough to beat.”
Among Doncic’s assists was a between-the-legs feed to Maxi Kleber for a dunk after the pick n’ roll. It took place with one minute left in overtime and the score 130 – 128 for the Mavericks. It went viral like crazy.
At 21 years of age, Doncic has already filled his resume with ridiculous plays of all kinds, not just assists. Yet it requires a rare combination of confidence, audacity, talent and skill to attempt and successfully pull off such a daring pass with the game on the line.
LUKA IS DOING THIS IN THE CLUTCH 🤯 pic.twitter.com/uA5rCpjvKP
— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) August 9, 2020
“I clapped,” Carlisle said. “I applauded. I thought it was phenomenal. The sign of a great player, a truly great player, is the ability to pull off something like that against a team like Milwaukee, that gives up virtually nothing in the paint.”
True to form, Doncic, who made the MIP (Most Improved Player) candidates, himself gave a rather laconic breakdown of the play. “I just did it. I didn’t think about it before right in the moment,” the Mavs star said.
A couple of days ago, Doncic earned the place of the youngest player ever in the NBA to put up a triple-double of 30+ points, 20+ assists and 10+ rebounds, thanks to his 34 points, 20 rebounds and 14 assists against the Kings. On Saturday, he passed Michael Jordan as the youngest to register a 35/10/15 game in the league’s history, per Stat Muse.
It was also Doncic’s 12th 30-point triple-double in 2019-2020 so far. Only Oscar Robertson and Russell Westbrook have combined that many triple-doubles with the same number of 30-point+ games in a single season.
With tonight’s 30-point triple-double, Luka Dončić has joined Oscar Robertson and Russell Westbrook as the only players in @NBA history with 12 or more 30-point triple-doubles in a single season. pic.twitter.com/crbH79jjkj
— Mavs PR (@MavsPR) August 9, 2020
Photo: Getty Images