Luka Doncic gets over fourth-quarter issues, outduels Damian Lillard and beats Blazers with gorgeous dagger


Luka Doncic doesn’t have many weaknesses, but statistically speaking, his crunch-time play has been one of them. In league-defined clutch situations (point differential within five with under five minutes to play), Doncic was shooting 34 percent from the field entering Friday and only 20.8 percent from behind the arc. His Dallas Mavericks have the NBA’s best offense overall (115.9 points per 100 possessions), but are ranked 28th in the league in clutch situations (94.3). While his age renders numbers like that mostly irrelevant in the long-term, anyone looking to poke holes in Doncic’s superstar future would probably start there. 

But on Friday, he looked like a seasoned veteran when his team needed him most. The Portland Trail Blazers had trimmed what was once a double-digit Mavericks lead down to six points at 115-109 with less than two minutes remaining. That is when Doncic took over. It started with a layup in traffic to push the lead back up to eight, but the real highlight came one play later. With Kent Bazemore right in his face, Doncic hit an incredible step-back 3-pointer with an arc so high the ball literally exceeds the camera frame before dropping in to secure the 120-109 victory. 

Doncic finished the game with 35 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, but the Mavericks had to endure an absolute onslaught from Damian Lillard. He scored 25 points in the first half and finished with 34, while Carmelo Anthony dropped 22 points of his own to help make up for the absence of C.J. McCollum, who exited the game with a sprained ankle. 

The win pushed Dallas into a tie with the Houston Rockets for the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference (though the Rockets hold a one-game lead in the loss column), but more importantly, it helped Doncic get the fourth-quarter monkey off his back. 

With Kristaps Porzingis out, he had no fellow star to lean on, and it is no secret that the Mavericks have struggled in close games all season. Of their 15 losses, 12 have come in those same league-defined clutch situations. Now we are seeing Doncic’s growth in those situations right before our eyes, and if he manages to use performances like this one as a springboard moving forward, one of Dallas’ last remaining weaknesses will have been fixed. 





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