DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks had lost an 11-point lead and all the momentum, having gone almost three minutes without scoring, before Luka Doncic delivered one of the most spectacular clutch shooting displays in recent NBA memory.
Doncic twice drained tightly contested, step-back 3-pointers to give the Mavs the lead on their final two possessions, the second a 27-footer that swished with a tenth of a second remaining Tuesday night to seal the 110-107 win over the Boston Celtics.
“We made a few mistakes, but I loved the way we kept our poise, hung in and made sure we got the ball in the right guy’s hands at the end,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said.
According to ESPN Stats & Information research, only one other player has hit a pair of go-ahead 3s in the final 30 seconds of a game over the past 25 seasons. Doncic joined the exclusive company of journeyman guard Dan Dickau, who accomplished the feat for the New Orleans Hornets in a Jan. 22, 2005, win over the LA Clippers.
Doncic’s clutch heroics to beat Boston inspired Carlisle to utter the 21-year-old All-Star’s name in the same sentence as some NBA legends, too.
“The wiring of people like Luka Doncic, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant — guys that have this laser-like focus in these situations — it’s difficult to explain how their mind and how their brain works,” Carlisle said. “He’s a very rare breed of player. Not only does he have the laser-like focus, but he has the desire and he has all the tools to deliver.”
Doncic, who finished with 31 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, had to reach deep in his tool kit to hit the shot that put the Mavs up with 15.8 seconds remaining. After finding no room when he attempted to drive, Doncic gave the ball up to Jalen Brunson and got it back a few steps beyond the 3-point line with 11 seconds remaining on the shot clock. He got a screen from forward Dorian Finney-Smith that led the Celtics to switch defenders, allowing Doncic to isolate against center Daniel Theis on the right wing. Doncic changed directions three times with between-the-legs dribbles before swishing the step-back with Theis’ hand in his face.
“It felt good out of my hands,” Doncic said. “I was kind of tired just running around the whole possession, but it got in, and that’s all that matters.”
Brown, who led the Celtics with 29 points, responded by hitting his second go-ahead shot of the final minute, driving for a layup with 9.5 seconds remaining. Dallas didn’t have a timeout and didn’t need one, knowing the plan was simply to get Doncic the ball and let him create. Doncic maneuvered to the left wing and knocked down a step-back over two Celtics defenders, reminiscent of the buzzer-beater he made to beat the Clippers in Game 4 of last season’s first-round playoff series, the signature moment of the superstar’s career so far.
“The last one was ridiculous,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who second-guessed not sending a second defender at Doncic when he was isolated on Theis the previous possession. “Kemba [Walker] was right there, Aaron [Nesmith] was right there. I’m not gonna be too hard on our guys for those last two shots that Luka Doncic just made.”
According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Doncic entered the night 2-of-7 on potential go-ahead 3s in the final 30 seconds of regulation or overtime, including his playoff dagger against the Clippers. He went 2-of-2 on Tuesday, allowing the 15-15 Mavs to get to .500 for the first time in a month.
“Sometimes you’re going to miss it — like the last game against Portland,” Doncic said, referring to his wide-open 3 that rimmed out on Dallas’ final possession of a 121-118 Valentine’s Day loss to the Trail Blazers. “And sometimes you’re going to make it.”
The Mavs, whose season seemed on the brink of crumbling when they had a six-game losing streak that stretched into early February, have won six of their past seven games. Doncic has led the NBA in scoring during that stretch with 34.0 points per game, shooting 51.9% from the floor and 48.3% from 3-point range, while also averaging 8.1 rebounds and 8.6 assists.
“He’s bringing us together,” said Brunson, who had 22 points off the bench. “We’re on the right track right now. We’ve got to keep it going.”