2:45 AM ET
Tim MacMahonESPN Staff Writer
- Joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009
- Covers the Dallas Cowboys and Dallas Mavericks
- Appears regularly on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM
Luka Doncic posted another historic statistical line to lead the Dallas Mavericks to a 105-100 win at the LA Clippers in Wednesday night’s pivotal Game 5, but he didn’t impress himself.
“I could have played way better,” Doncic said after his 42-point, eight-rebound, 14-assist performance staked the Mavericks to a 3-2 series advantage. “I missed a lot of shots, some layups that I should make. But it wasn’t just me, man. It was the whole team, the energy.”
Doncic singled out role players Dorian Finney-Smith and Dwight Powell for making the kind of contributions that don’t show up in the box score. He praised Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kristaps Porzingis for drilling clutch 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to stretch Dallas’ lead to 10 with a little more than two minutes remaining.
Doncic brushed off his own night, but he shouldered an unprecedented offensive burden while feeling “way better” after a couple of days of massage, ice and rest to treat the cervical strain in his neck. He made or assisted on 31 of the Mavs’ 37 field goals, accounting for 83.8% of Dallas’ buckets, the highest percentage ever in a playoff game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“That’s our guy,” said Hardaway, who was the only other Maverick to score in double figures, finishing with 20 points. “We’re going to do whatever we can to back him up in any situation, at any given moment. The performance he had today, it would have sucked if we didn’t come out with the victory.”
The Mavs, in part due to Doncic fading in the fourth quarter, had to sweat out the final minute, the victory secured only after reserve guard Josh Richardson rebounded Clippers star Kawhi Leonard’s air-balled 3 with 4.4 seconds and made a couple of free throws after being fouled.
Doncic, who played 43 minutes, scored only two points on 1-of-8 shooting in the final quarter. He repeatedly referred to his performance down the stretch as “terrible” during his TNT sideline interview after the game.
However, Doncic had dominated the first three quarters, showing no ill effects of the neck injury that had hampered him so much during his off night in Sunday’s Game 4 loss in Dallas.
“Luka Doncic is just one of the toughest players I’ve ever seen, ever been around,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s just a warrior-type guy that happens to be one of the very best players in the world.”
The Mavs opened Wednesday’s game with a massive lineup, with 7-foot-4 Boban Marjanovic playing next to 7-foot-3 Porzingis in a rhythm-disrupting zone defense, and Doncic made sure Dallas got off to a strong offensive start. Doncic scored 19 points in the first quarter, the most he has had in any playoff quarter, and dished out four assists, factoring into all but one of the Mavs’ dozen field goals.
Doncic had 40 points by the end of the third quarter. It was his fourth 40-point playoff performance of his career, the most by any player before their 23rd birthday, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. He has played 11 playoff games, all against the Clippers, whom the Mavs are a win away from paying back for eliminating them from the bubble in the first round last season.
Doncic finished 17-of-37 from the floor, attempting five more field goals than he had in any previous NBA game, regular season or playoffs.
“I think it was too much,” said Doncic, who was 6-of-12 from 3-point range. “I shot some shots that I shouldn’t have shot. I honestly think it was too much. I think I was good from 3, but I missed a couple of layups.
“But we got a win. That’s all that matters at the end of the day.”