CLEVELAND – Inspired? Motivated? Or is he just angry?
Whatever boost Luka Doncic used, perhaps all of the above, he clearly had a lot of that on Saturday night, scoring 35 career points, tying 11 rebounds and adding six assists in the short-handed Mavericks, 111- 98 Victory over Cleveland.
Playing at Quicken Loans Arena, where his idol, LeBron James NBA legend, sprouted and grew, Doncic was like King James during an electrifying first quarter in which he scored 18 of Dallas' 40 points.
Was it just a coincidence that this was the first Doncic game that was overlooked for a position on the Star list? And his first game as the unquestioned base of the Mavericks after Thursday's exchange from Dennis Smith Jr. to New York?
Did the rookie Doncic take the All-Star snub personally and, therefore, Saturday on the court?
"I tried to show every day that I can be in that game," he said with a shrug. "But unfortunately they did not choose me, so I'll work harder to be there next year."
The Mavericks played their second consecutive game of short players, with only 11 players playing, three-fifths of this season's main lineup traded to the Knicks and the acquisitions did not join the franchise until Monday.
Still, with wins over the humble Knicks and Cavaliers, Dallas (24-28) finished 2-1 on this road trip and equaled last season's total wins.
Doncic had 28 points at halftime and was apparently on his way to a night of 40 or maybe 50 points. But he was limited to six points in the third quarter and one in the fourth as Harrison Barnes (17 points) and Jalen Brunson (15 points) helped put the game out of reach.
Doncic made 13 of 25 shots, including 4 of 11 from a distance of 3 points. If the game had been closer and he had played more in the last quarter, he would have reached 40 points easily.
"I hoped so," he said. "But we got the victory, so that's what matters to me."
As if Doncic did not have enough inspiration, he played Saturday's match against a large Slovenian vocal crowd of several hundred.
Doncic knew before the game that Cleveland has the largest Slovenian population out of, well, Slovenia. There are 55,000 Slovenians living in Ohio, by far the highest of any state in the United States.
When Doncic left to warm up, they greeted him with loud chants of "Luka, Luka, Luka!" and fans who hold Slovenian flags.
Lojze Peterle, the first prime minister of Slovenia, greeted Doncic in court and told reporters: "I just wanted to shake his hand."
"I was talking to a friend this morning and he told me [about Cleveland’s Slovenian population]"Doncic said." I expected fans, but not so many. They were great. They were encouraging me. It felt incredible. "
If one of the Western Conference All-Stars is injured between now and the All-Star game on February 17, there is still the possibility that he will be added to Doncic, but either way he will participate in the All-Weekend. -Star, playing in the Rising Stars. game.
No rookie has played in the All-Star Game since Blake Griffin in 2011. Mavericks' great Dirk Nowitzki will play in his 14th All-Star Game, this time as an honorific addition to NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
Nowitzki noted that it took him four seasons to reach his first All-Star game. I thought I should have achieved it during his third season.
"Sometimes it's about trying yourself out more than a couple of months," Nowitzki said. "It's about trying yourself for a year or two before you get the nod, but you're on the right track, obviously.
"He's playing extremely well, he's having a great season for us, our record could have played a little bit, he deserved it, but he can not be discouraged by that, he's having a great season for anyone, let alone a 19-year-old. "
This topic is losing its voice.