Luka Doncic did it again.

31 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and the game-winner. Hollywood couldn’t write a better script.

The breakdown:

This game was trending in the direction of a Dallas meltdown. With 3:57 left in the game, the Mavericks held a 12 point lead, 101-89. And for most teams, a 12-point cushion in the final five minutes of a game signifies that the outcome will, most likely, be a favorable one. However, for Dallas, that’s hardly ever the case. The Mavs have one of the league’s worst fourth-quarter defenses, and that issue appeared again against the Boston Celtics.

Before those watching knew it, Boston found itself on a 15-3 run possessing a one-point lead, 105-104, with 37 seconds left in the game.

It was a Doncic step-back three-pointer that stemmed the tied, as Dallas grabbed the lead right back, 107-105. Boston’s Jaylen Brown would quickly answer with a layup of his own to tie the game. But he left way too much time on the clock, a first-time All-Star mistake.

With nine seconds left Doncic dribbled up the floor cool, calm and collected. He knew what he wanted to do before he even crossed halfcourt. Anyone who watches Dallas knew what Doncic wanted – a stepback three. Someone should have told Boston the news before it was too late (but not really). Doncic got to his spot on the left-wing, stepped-back and hit the shot Mavs fans have grown accustomed to seeing.

For Dallas, this marks the sixth win in seven games (15-15 overall). And for Luka, this game marks the finishing touches on a masterful performance that put the questions surrounding his All-Star starter selection to rest.

Doncic rests his case:

After the All-Star starters were announced on Feb. 18, questions surrounding the legitimacy of Doncic’s selection as a starter immediately surfaced. And a majority of them were somewhat fair. Experts assessed that Damian Lillard is the leader on a Portland team that carries a better record than the Dallas Mavericks.

Lillard had just wrapped up a 10-game stretch that saw him average 31 points and 8.8 assists per game. More importantly, Portland was winning, going 8-2 during this stretch.

NBA Twitter and fans everyone rallied around Lillard, saying that Doncic was simply a starter due to the lack of media coverage for Portland, not because he was playing better. Lillard even got in on the action saying, “I’ve always been the person to get the shorter end of the stick.”

And it’s true, Lillard has routinely been snubbed when it comes to All-Star stater status. However, this year Lillard’s snub for Doncic wasn’t because Doncic was undeserving, and Luka used Tuesday’s game as proof of that.

The evidence:

In the last seven games, Doncic’s splits are 34 points per game, 8.6 assists and 8.1 rebounds. He’s doing this on 54 percent field goal shooting and 48 percent from behind the three-point line. Dallas is 6-1.

The one loss is against Portland where Doncic tallied 44 points 9 assists and 7 rebounds. Lillard in that game: 34 points, 11 assists and three rebounds.

Though Portland won, Doncic outplayed Lillard. And if not for an unlucky bounce at the end of the game, we’d be talking about a Dallas win over the Blazers.

Fast forward to Tuesday against the Celtics, Doncic left no doubt. The game-winning shot was good before it left his hands. The Celtics shouldn’t have let him go left, but the defense did.

The verdict:

Doncic must have heard the whispers around the league saying that he didn’t deserve to be an All-Star Game starter. He had something to prove against a Boston team that desperately needed a win. And though on the court there was Brown and Jayson Tatum, Doncic was clearly the best player. He played chess while everyone else on the floor played checkers. It was a queen’s gambit.

All of Luka’s 31 points were needed for Dallas, the poor fourth-quarter defense is to blame for that one. However, if good is born out of Dallas’ inconsistent fourth-quarters it’s that against the Celtics it allowed Doncic to take center-stage, rest his case and take a bow.

It’s no question, after Tuesday night, Doncic belongs in the All-Star Game as a starter. And it’s also no question that Doncic makes the improbable seem routine. Now he has to do it again against Philadelphia on Thursday.

Feature image via Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Related reading on Dallas’ current win streak.

 

 

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