DALLAS – Sometimes, it doesn’t matter who defends Luka Doncic. For example, or 42 points, actually, Paul George, the LA Clippers superstar whose name always comes up in conversations about the NBA’s top perimeter studs. Doncic made the defensive pick four times look dumb on numerous occasions during his masterful performance in the Dallas Mavericks’ 105-89 win on Wednesday.
Doncic, who finished with 42 points on 16 of 28 shooting and nine assists, didn’t do all his damage against George. Kawhi Leonard had no luck with him either. Neither did Nicolas Batum. Or anyone else the Clippers threw at the 22-year-old All-Star. And it was not for lack of effort.
“For the most part, defensively, I thought we did a good job even though Luka burned us,” Clippers coach Ty Lue said.
George got the worst of it. According to Second Synergy data, half of Doncic’s points came when he faced George on the half court. Doncic had 21 points on 15 shots, with an effective field goal percentage of 70%, and dished out five assists with no turnovers while protected by George.
“I thought we played great defense,” George said, “but they made some really, really tough shots, and they made some really, really great plays.”
The play that produced the most gasps was probably a Doncic miss. If Doncic waved that particular recoil shot, it would have been a viral highlight in seconds, as he slammed on the brakes and crossed so suddenly that George tripped over the hardwood, putting both hands down to stop his fall as Doncic unleashed the Shot. .
It wasn’t nearly as unpleasant as James Harden’s crossover and step-back jump a few years ago that caused former Clippers forward Wes Johnson to unintentionally sit in the middle of the court. But this was against Paul George, not against an officer.
Doncic’s last cube, a floating dagger with 1:27 remaining, came after another move that sent George’s hand to the ground to avoid falling. It was a behind-the-back crossover on the right wing, where George stayed after regaining his balance, getting a nice view of Doncic finishing in the lane.
“I’m not going to say anything about Paul George, who may have slipped on the floor or something, but Luka is a great player,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said, emphasizing the respect he had for George and the Clippers. “He has the ability to make these plays that stop on a dime that are really exceptionally special.”
There aren’t many answers for Doncic when he’s shooting efficiently from 3-point range, which he’s done on a regular basis recently. Doncic has shot 43% from deep in his last 14 games, and 50.5% from the field overall, averaging 30.5 points and 9.2 assists in that span. It is no coincidence that the Mavs (21-18) have won 11 of 14 games, returning to the image of the Western Conference playoffs after falling five games below .500.
It’s no secret that Doncic wants to step back to his left, particularly from the left wing. The Clippers (26-16) know that better than anyone, considering it’s the shot and point of Doncic’s unforgettable overtime to score a 43-point triple-double in a bubble playoff victory over them.
However, Doncic was still 6-for-11 from 3-point range on Wednesday, including a four-point play when he stopped after taking a step back, leaned in and drew Leonard’s contact as he released the shot.
“Sometimes we let him step back too far to the left and he got comfortable,” Leonard said. “He got hot and fired, and it’s hard to turn off the water once a great player like that gets going.”
ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk contributed to this report.