Luka Doncic is becoming a legend right before our eyes. With a bad ankle and all in Game 4 of their first-round series against the Clippers, Doncic hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Mavericks a 135-133 victory in OT. The second-year guard becomes the youngest player in NBA history to hit a game-winning buzzer-beater in the playoffs, and with the win, the Mavericks tied the series up at 2-2.
Dallas came into the game without Kristaps Porzingis, who was a late scratch due to knee soreness. However, Doncic carried the load. The 21-year-old recorded his second-straight triple-double with 43 points, 17 rebounds, and 13 assists in 46 minutes.
After the game, Doncic explained what happened on the game-winning shot.
“I was just trying to make it,” Doncic said. “I can’t explain the emotions I had, not only when the ball goes in, but when I see the whole team running toward me. That was something special, one of the best feelings I’ve ever had as a player. Just something special.”
Doncic, who was a game-time decision after injuring his ankle on Friday, gave credit to the Mavericks’ training staff for getting him ready for the game.
“The guys here you don’t hear about did an amazing job with me yesterday,” Doncic said. “We were working almost the whole day. They were helping me out the whole time with whatever I needed. Obviously, it wasn’t 100 percent, but I think it was good.”
Mavericks head coach Rick Carlise, who played with Larry Bird and coached Jason Kidd, was impressed with Doncic’s performance on Sunday and thinks Doncic is similar to the two Hall of Famers.
“I mention Kidd and Bird,” Carlisle said. “I think both of those guys are from the same fabric competitively, in terms of their will to win and their resourcefulness to impact the game in unique forms. It’s not just about putting the ball in the basket. It’s about giving teammates confidence. It’s about knowing how to channel your emotions. Luka has gone through a lot here. Early on, we were having a lot of discussions with officials; it was draining all of our energy, and our team has grown through that stuff. We understand more and more that distractions are things that we control.
“I thought the second half, particularly Luka, did a great job of channeling his energy toward his teammates and giving them energy. Otherwise, you wear yourself out. This, today, is a game that will go down in history in some form as one of the best games a second-year player has ever played. I asked this question earlier today, when is the last time a rookie of the year was up for most improved the following year? I don’t think that’s ever happened. The work he has put in has been phenomenal as well, I don’t think there has been enough talk about that.”
Being compared to Bird and Kidd is high praise for Doncic. He is playing at an elite level right now. If he continues to play at this level, the comparisons to Bird and Kidd will continue. However and more importantly, after Doncic’s game-winner on Sunday, the Mavericks are right back in this series with the Clippers.