Luka Doncic hit another historic statistical line that led the Dallas Mavericks to a 105-100 win at the LA Clippers in the crucial 5th game on Wednesday night, but he couldn’t impress himself.
“I could have played a lot better,” said Doncic after his performance with 42 points, eight rebounds and 14 assists gave the Mavericks a 3-2 lead in the series. “I missed a lot of shots, some layups to do. But it wasn’t just me, man. It was the whole team, the energy.”
Doncic recognized role players Dorian Finney-Smith and Dwight Powell for contributions that did not show up in the box score. He commended Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kristaps Porzingis for drilling clutch 3-pointers on consecutive holdings to extend Dallas’ lead to 10 with just over two minutes left.
Doncic cleaned up his own night, but he shouldered an unprecedented insulting burden as he felt “much better” after a few days of massage, ice, and rest to treat the cervical strain on his neck. He scored or assisted on 31 of the Mavs ’37 field goals, representing 83.8% of Dallas’ buckets, the highest percentage ever in a playoff game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“This is our type,” said Hardaway, who was the only other Maverick to score double digits and finished with 20 points. “We’ll do everything in our power to support him in any situation and at any point in time. The performance he had today would have been shit if we hadn’t won.”
The Mavs had to sweat out in the last minute, partly because of Doncic’s fading in the fourth quarter, victory only secured after reserve guard Josh Richardson rebounded the Airballed 3 from Clippers star Kawhi Leonard with 4.4 seconds and made a few free throws afterwards he was fouled.
Doncic, who played 43 minutes, scored just two points on the 1-of-8 shootout in the final quarter. He repeatedly described his performance as “terrible” during his post-game TNT sideline interview.
However, Doncic had dominated the first three quarters and showed no ill effects from the neck injury that handicapped him so badly during his night off in his Game 4 loss in Dallas on Sunday.
“Luka Doncic is just one of the toughest players I’ve ever seen,” said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle. “He’s just a warrior guy who happens to be one of the best players in the world.”
The Mavs opened the game Wednesday with a massive line-up, with 7-foot-4 Boban Marjanovic playing alongside 7-foot-3 Porzingis in a rhythm-disrupting zone defense, and Doncic ensured Dallas had a strong offensive start. Doncic scored 19 points in the first quarter, the most he had in any playoff quarter, and dumped four assists that counted for but one of the Mavs’ dozen field goals.
Doncic had 40 points at the end of the third quarter. According to ESPN Stats & Information Research, it was his fourth 40-point playoff performance of his career, most from a player before his 23rd birthday. He has played 11 playoff games, all against the Clippers, who the Mavs are one win away from paying back for eliminating the bubble in the first round last season.
Doncic finished 17 of 37 off the ground, attempting five more field goals than in any previous NBA game, regular season, or playoff.
“I think it was too much,” said Doncic, who was 6 of 12 out of 3-point range. “I shot some shots that I shouldn’t have shot. I honestly think it was too much. I think I was fine from 3, but I missed a few layups.
“But we got a win. That’s all that matters at the end of the day.”