Luka Doncic wins 3 caps on big night to give Mavs 2-0 lead

MINNEAPOLIS – With the Mavericks trailing by two points, Dallas coach Jason Kidd made his best play during a timeout with 13 seconds left in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals Friday evening.

“The game was about giving the ball to Luka and letting him do what he does in those moments,” Kidd said.

Doncic capped a comeback from an 18-point deficit in spectacular fashion, going down 3 on four-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert to give the Mavericks a 109-108 victory and a 2-0 lead over the Minnesota. Timberwolves as the series heads to Dallas.

Doncic took the inside pass a few steps over the half-court line and got a screen from rookie center Derek Lively II. Jaden McDaniels and Gobert switched, something Gobert had only done once on the previous 19 ball screens he defended in the game, according to ESPN Stats & Information. It was a pleasant surprise for the Mavericks, leaving the 7-foot-1 Gobert on an island against the league’s leading scorer 40 feet from the basket.

“Curtains,” Mavericks veteran reserve Markieff Morris told ESPN, recalling his thoughts at that moment.

“It was just time to get ready for the magic to happen,” Mavericks star Kyrie Irving said.

Doncic danced with his dribble as he approached the top of the 3-point arc. He crossed from left to right, forcing Gobert to overcommit a little, then passed between his legs the other way before speeding up to take a step toward the basket to put the Timberwolves big man on his heels. Then Doncic stepped back to his right – not his favorite variation of his signature shot, going to his left – and launched a shot over Gobert’s outstretched right arm.

The ball crossed the net with 3.0 seconds remaining.

“I just saw some space and decided to shoot a 3,” Doncic said after leading the Mavericks to the third-largest playoff comeback in franchise history. “Come to my place, step back. That’s all.”

Doncic finished with 32 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists, joining Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson and Nikola Jokic as the only players in NBA history to record four triple-doubles in five playoff games, according to ESPN Stats & Information. . The previous three cases all occurred during championship races.

It was Doncic’s second career 3-pointer in the final five seconds of a playoff game. He joined LeBron James, Damian Lillard, Reggie Miller and Robert Horry as the only players who could make that claim during the play-by-play era, which began in 1997-98. Doncic made a step-back 3 — to the left, from his favorite spot on the left wing — at the buzzer to beat the LA Clippers in Game 4 of his first NBA playoff series during the 2020 bubble.

“As you saw, he loves that scene,” Kidd said. “He doesn’t run away. He made a big shot. … Luka is special. He loves these kinds of moments.”

Added Irving, who scored 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter: “He’s prepared for these moments, and he’s built for these moments. So things like that happen. I’m not surprised, but as a brother , I’m just straight up proud, he brought us home tonight, man.

While the Target Center crowd was silent, Doncic celebrated the moment by shouting trash talk at Gobert. It wasn’t hard to read his lips.

“You can’t keep me!” Doncic clearly screamed, in part, although he jokingly denied it after the match.

“I didn’t say that,” Doncic said. “I spoke Slovenian.”

Gobert said he didn’t see or hear Doncic yelling in his direction, but he wasn’t surprised by the message.

“He says that every game, so nothing new,” Gobert told ESPN.

Their story provides strong evidence that Doncic’s point, like his game-winning shot, was accurate. According to Second Spectrum, Doncic is 8 of 11 from 3-point range in his career when Gobert is the closest defender. That includes 4 of 5 in playoff games, dating back to when the Mavericks eliminated the Utah Jazz in the first round of the 2022 playoffs, which ended up being Gobert’s final series with his original franchise.

In this case, despite Doncic’s ball-handling display and multiple changes of direction, Gobert managed to get what could be considered a decent contest.

“This is for a regular NBA player,” Gobert said. “For Luka, it wasn’t enough.”

Minnesota had a chance to win the game in the final seconds. Sixth Man of the Year Naz Reid, who led Minnesota with 23 points, saw his 3-point attempt from the right wing bounce off the back iron and go out. He had made seven of his previous eight 3-point attempts in the game.

“I almost passed out,” Doncic said. “It looked so good.”

The Timberwolves’ two All-Stars had yet another off night, as Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns combined for 36 points on 9-of-33 shooting. Edwards also committed a few costly turnovers in the fourth quarter, including throwing the ball went out of bounds on the possession just before Doncic’s game-winner, when Lively switched to Edwards in an isolation situation and prevented him from shooting.

But Gobert, who totaled 16 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals and a block, blamed himself for the defeat at home.

“I let my team down on that last play,” Gobert said. “They believed in me to make the save and he scored. And he scored a 3, which he does very well. So I definitely take the responsibility that I need to be better in this situation.”

Edwards, meanwhile, expressed confidence that the Timberwolves could come back to win the series. He highlighted their resilience in the previous round, when they bounced back from three straight losses to eliminate the defending champion Denver Nuggets in seven games.

“We were up 2-0, and then they came and won two at the cradle, then one at the cradle,” said Edwards, who averaged 20 points on 33.3 percent shooting in the two home losses for start the West final. “So we’ve been here before. I don’t think anyone in the locker room is freaking out. I hope not. Come out and play our style of basketball.”

Dallas overcame difficult circumstances to win Game 2. Doncic has been playing with a sprained right knee since the middle of the first round, and he retreated to the locker room for treatment during his rests in the final minutes of the first and third quarter Friday. night. Dallas also had to widen an 18-point gap, still trailing by double digits midway through the third quarter.

“Like I always say, stay together, positive energy,” Doncic said. “We believed in it until the end.”

ESPN’s Dave McMenamin contributed to this report.

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