The Dallas Morning News

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Doncic rescues day and maybe season

- BRAD TOWNSEND btownsend@dallasnews.com

The smoke from Luka Doncic’s latest abracadabr­a moment still hangs in the air, along with our collective state of disbelief. No matter how many times we view it, and regardless of camera angle, Doncic’s falling-forward, gamewinnin­g 3-pointer Wednesday night in Memphis is no less stupefying.

Nor is the sight of beaming 22-yearold Doncic gazing around the Fedex Forum, arms raised triumphant­ly, any less smile-inducing.

Tada!

“He sees angles and possibilit­ies and has a be

lief system that very few of us can fathom,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle marveled, further perpetuati­ng the Luka Magic nickname by comparing him to Harry Houdini.

“He got us out of here alive.” What, exactly, did Doncic’s Grizzlies-taming shot accomplish? To call it a season-saving moment seems an overstatem­ent with 18 games remaining, but it could well prove pivotal.

Instead of the seventh-place Mavericks losing to eighthplac­e Memphis by two points and having their lead over the Grizzlies shrink to a half-game, they now lead by 21⁄2 games. And Dallas clinched the season series, meaning that, in effect, its lead is 31⁄2 games.

Instead of suffering their third straight defeat and fourth in their last five games, the Mavericks (30-24) enter Friday night’s home game against the Knicks with much-needed momentum.

Friday’s matchup begins a five-game home stand that offers potential to catch sixthplace Portland and perhaps the fifth-place Lakers, Dallas’ opponent in the last two games of the home stand.

So, yeah, Doncic’s leaning dagger was big. Potentiall­y season altering.

“Sometimes you’re going to make it, but sometimes you’re going to miss it, too,” Doncic said, when asked about his knack for delivering in clutch moments. “So you’ve got to take that, too.

“I think that’s the most important part. If my team trusts me in that moment, I’ll keep working on it.”

Unlike his game-winning 3pointers against Boston this season and against the Clippers in Game 4 of last season’s playoffs, Mr. Stepback this time split Grizzlies defenders Jonas Valanciuna­s and Dillon Brooks by lurching forward and jumping off the wrong (left) foot.

Doncic raised his arms, the Covid-19-limited Fedex Forum crowd gasped, Mavericks teammates mobbed Doncic and within seconds NBA greats reacted on Twitter.

“C’mon you ain’t serious man!!” Lebron James tweeted.

“Tough,” said Damian Lillard.

“Ridiculous,” chimed Steph Curry.

The legend of Luka Magic, the nickname that Mavericks TV voice Mark Followill bestowed when then-rookie Doncic flicked in a high-arching 3pointer from the corner to force overtime in Portland on Dec. 23, 2018, grows still.

This is the fourth time in Doncic’s 188-game career (regular season and playoffs) that he has made a game-winning or game-tying 3-pointer in the final five seconds of a fourth quarter or overtime. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that leads the NBA in the past three seasons.

Two of those have been what basketball­reference.com classifies as game-winning “buzzer-beaters” — the ball dropping through the hoop with no time left on the clock: Wednesday night’s heroics and the overtime Bubble Bomb he made against the Clippers that gave Dallas the thrilling 135-133 victory.

Doncic would have had a third buzzer-beater, but his 3pointer to beat Boston on Feb. 23 officially occurred with onetenth of a second left.

“First and foremost he’s a competitor,” said teammate Dwight Powell, who contribute­d 12 points and eight rebounds to Wednesday’s victory. “He wants to win. Secondly he’s not afraid of those big moments, at all. He embraces that moment fully.”

According to basketball­reference.com, Doncic’s buzzerbeat­er against the Grizzlies was the 787th in NBA history and the 25th in the Mavericks’ 41season history.

Though only in his third season, Doncic became just the fourth Dallas player to have multiple buzzer-beaters as a Maverick, joining Dirk Nowitzki (three), Monta Ellis (two) and Michael Finley (two).

Before Doncic’s buzzerbeat­er against the Clippers in the playoffs, the most recent Maverick to record one was Harrison Barnes at Memphis on Nov. 22, 2017.

Of the 25 buzzer-beaters in Dallas history, 16 have come with the score tied. Only eight have been 3-pointers.

Both of Doncic’s buzzerbeat­ers are 3-pointers and both occurred with the Mavericks trailing. All three of Nowitzki’s buzzer-beaters were two-pointers, with a tie score, which in no way diminishes those heroics but underscore­s the added pressure of Doncic’s shots.

The only thing that would have added to the degree of difficulty of what he pulled off against the Grizzlies would have been if he was handcuffed a la Houdini.

“Get the ball in his hands and he believes that anything is possible,” Carlisle said. “Hey, look, it’s a wrong-footed shot that hit nothing but net. It’s just an amazing shot.

“My biggest question was ‘Was it a two or a three?’ And then when [assistant coach] Mike Shedd came back and said, ‘It’s a three, that’s ballgame.’

“What a feeling.”

Voila. Luka Magic.

 ?? Brandon Dill/the Associated Press ?? Mavericks guard Luka Doncic releases his shot from just outside the 3-point line moments before the final buzzer. The shot beat the Memphis Grizzlies 114-113.
Brandon Dill/the Associated Press Mavericks guard Luka Doncic releases his shot from just outside the 3-point line moments before the final buzzer. The shot beat the Memphis Grizzlies 114-113.
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 ?? Brandon Dill/the Associated Press ?? Luka Doncic (front center) and his Mavericks teammates celebrate his game-winning 3-point shot as time expired against the Memphis Grizzlies. It was the second time in his Mavericks career that he has won a game at the buzzer with a 3-pointer.
Brandon Dill/the Associated Press Luka Doncic (front center) and his Mavericks teammates celebrate his game-winning 3-point shot as time expired against the Memphis Grizzlies. It was the second time in his Mavericks career that he has won a game at the buzzer with a 3-pointer.

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