In the NBA everything happens very fast. Luka Doncic and Ja Morant are the same age (the Slovenian is just a few months older): 22 years old. But the first looks like a veteran, with two all star already on the resume, while the Grizzlies point guard is the fashionable player (deservedly so). With Doncic basically off the court, between ankle problems and COVID protocols, Morant catapulted the Grizzlies, became the sensation of the moment and piled votes of guard starter in what will be his first All Star. Again, everything absolutely deserved. But of course, Doncic is still Doncic. And he won the duel between the 2019 and 2020 Rookie of the Year, between number 3 in 2018 and number 2 in 2019. Between, essentially, two of the biggest young stars in the West and in the NBA. He not only won, he swept: 85-112 for some Mavericks that are beginning to be a very serious thing. And that, in addition to recovering Kristaps Porzingis, they are 23-19, settled in fifth place in the West. For the Grizzlies it is now 30-15, still third after the best streak in franchise history died in this game. They have been, since December 23, eleven wins in a row.
The merit of the Mavs is thunderous. Jason Kidd, despite the fact that he arrived surrounded by doubts, is achieving the objectives for which he was signed: Doncic and Porzingis have chemistry again, the Mavs defend much better and attack with more records, less obsessed with pick and roll de Doncic surrounded by shooters (something that continues to be, moreover, an invaluable resource). A tough, competitive team that had six wins before hit it in New York and came back to life in Memphis, right now the most difficult scenario.
A team that, as if nothing had happened, silenced a very hot crowd in the second half and He turned the game around to turn a possible bad drink into a poster exhibition (85-112 final). The Grizzlies led 60-51 at the start of the third quarter. Until then, the Mavs had made the rubber, alternating good stretches with others in which they seemed about to drop, one step behind a vertiginous rival who accused playing in back to back and noted the specific gravity of some concrete Mavs. From that 60-51, very dangerous and with the feeling that Desmond Bane was warming up after a weak first half, it went to 79-110 two minutes from the end. In 20 minutes of the second half, the Mavs amassed a 19-59 on court of the fittest team in the NBA. An extraordinary stretch in which they took the Grizzlies out of their plan, forced to look for big shots on the outside and without its usual penetration routes or transition points. Without running and without layups, with fewer points in the zone and less on the counterattack, they lost their identity and were left in the hands of Luka Doncic, who never gave the feeling of accelerating but waited for the game to come to him. And when that happened, it burst. It’s what the greats do.
Ja Morant, the star of the moment, was intermittent and struck little. He finished with 19 points and 8 assists for 8 turnovers. Without Superman’s cape against a defense strengthened by Finney-Smith, Kleber, Powell and Chriss. Neither Jaren Jackson Jr nor Bane were comfortable, nor did saving hands appear in the long rotation of Tennessee. The Mavs absorbed the virtues of a rival who became mediocre, they took blows and held on until their time came. And when it appeared, they struck with an iron fist. With the almost always excellent Jalen Brunson (15 points, 9 assists, 5 steals), with the timely appearance of Tim Hardaway (16 points)… and with Luka Doncic, of course. Always with Luka Doncic.
Doncic opened with two turnovers and seemed slow, uncomfortable between the electric moves of a hyperactive opponent. He seemed lost but he was gathering information, learning, making a plan. It was not a nap, much less a surrender. It was an exercise in control in the kind of chaos that Grizzlies normally spring from. After a very discreet first half (9 points in 12 shots, 0/4 in triples, 6 assists for 5 turnovers), Doncic took out the squad and the bevel and erased Morant and the Grizzlies from the map without acceleratingwithout doing anything that seems Of the other world, with the party traveling at their own pace and not the other way around. It’s that good.
He finished with 27 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists and a 12/22 shooting despite 0/6 from 3-point range and only 4 free throws taken. And six losses. It is, effectively, a second half of 18 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and only one loss. And a 10/12 in shots. In the third quarter he scored 10 points that seemed like a lot more. And between the end of that part and the start of the last one he smelled blood and destroyed his rival, who dropped without even knowing what had happened. What had happened It was simply Luka Doncic. That added his triple-double number 40, by the way. At 22 years old and in 226 games. Only Oscar Robertson took less (92 games, one thing crazy) to reach that figure. One round: 80 triple-doubles in Mavs history, 40 for Doncic and 40 for everyone else. That said, at the age of 22 and after remembering at the house of the fashion star that hasn’t gone anywhere, what’s still there, that all the accounts about who is the great young star of the NBA have to continue going through him as one of the unquestionable axes. It’s that simple but this game was a great reminder.