Luka Doncic’s triple-double propels Mavs to 3-2 lead over Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY – Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic intentionally had no complaints Wednesday night.

Doncic entered the crucial Game 5 against the Oklahoma City Thunder determined not to expend energy arguing with the referees. He often vented during a frustrating Game 4 loss, as Doncic often does. But on Wednesday, he decided that joy would be the dominant attribute of his approach to this critical competition in the hostile Paycom Center.

“Just focus on basketball,” Doncic said after the 104-92 victory that put the Mavs one victory away from the West final. “Remember what I love, what I love to do. Just play basketball.”

Doncic, who is dealing with a sprained right knee, a sore left ankle and stifling defense from Thunder guard Luguentz Dort as he struggled to his All-NBA standards in the first four games of the series, has responded with his best performance of these playoffs. He had 31 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.

The few conversations Doncic had with the referees Wednesday night were brief and cordial. He avoided arguments and bickering in a game the Mavs led for the final 43 minutes, 59 seconds.

“I talked to them normally without complaining, nothing,” said Doncic, who recorded the third 30-point triple-double of his career in the playoffs. “I think it was the whole game, nothing. So I just go out there and hoop. Have fun, have fun. It was old Luka – a smile on my face.”

Doncic, who was limited to an average of 22.0 points per game on 39.0% shooting in the first four games of the series, changed his pregame routine by starting his individual warmup about 15 minutes earlier than usual. Mavs forward Derrick Jones Jr., who was going through his warmup routine at the same time, had a good feeling as Doncic continued to drain his shots.

“I was just sitting there going, ‘This is going to be a long day for them,’” Jones said. “I’ve always insisted that ’77 is amazing.” Once he finds his rhythm and gets going, you can’t stop him. »

Doncic got into his rhythm right away, scoring the game’s first points when he kissed in an off-dribble fadeaway off the glass. His next bucket was a 21-footer that he threw because he was hit by Thunder forward Jalen Williams and expected the whistle to blow. After the ball crossed the net, Doncic glanced at referee Kevin Scott but silently returned to defense.

Doncic remained calm while dominating as a scorer and distributor. He made a handful of shots that stopped Oklahoma City’s momentum, including a step-back 3 on Dort from Doncic’s favorite spot on the left wing immediately after the Thunder cut the deficit to single digits in the last minute of the third quarter. His 11 assists were highlighted by pass-offs to teammates for five dunks, including four alley-oops. Jones was Doncic’s biggest beneficiary, drawing crowds and creating, as he scored five times on Doncic dimes and finished with 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting.

Doncic finished 11 of 22 from the floor, 5 of 11 from 3-point range and 2 of 3 from the free throw line. He laughed when asked if he shot so few free throws, saying he didn’t want to discuss the issue.

“He’s human, he’s not a robot,” Kidd said when asked about Doncic’s unusually calm demeanor. “Sometimes we just think he’s going to score 30, 10 and 10. You know the playoffs are tough mentally and physically. Before the game, understand that you’re not going to get any calls on the road. You have to understand yourself. I gotta play through this.”

Mavs co-star Kyrie Irving and Kidd have both had discussions with Doncic about not getting distracted by his frustration over not getting rude calls he feels he deserves. Irving emphasized to Doncic that the Mavs are at their best when the MVP finalist is focused on “the big picture” instead of worrying about whistles that don’t suit him.

“I think he can learn from that tonight as well as all of us and continue to assert that when he just focuses on his game and he focuses on the right things, then we thrive as a team. “team,” Irving said. , who scored 12 points on 5 of 11 shooting.

“I’m also not going to sit here and complain about him when you talk to the referees like the referees are perfect. I’m not going to do that. I have to give my brother a little benefit of the doubt. Sometimes, it’s justified to pick on the guys who are officiating the game, but I think he found a healthy balance tonight where he was really focused on our ability to move forward offensively, make the right plays and make sure that we keep our foot on the gas pedal.

Doncic also contributed to another swarming and dominant defensive effort for Dallas. Oklahoma City finished with the fewest points in any game this season, regular season or playoffs.

Doncic sealed the victory by blocking Oklahoma City superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s transition layup attempt with 55 seconds left. Doncic joked after the game about being an All-Defensive candidate for next season, but he’s relishing the opportunity the Mavs have right now.

“This team is special,” Doncic said. “We’ve only been together for five months and I’m having a lot of fun with this team.”

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