The Atlanta Hawks blew the Mavericks out in their season-opener, but Dallas bounced back with a come-from-behind victory over the Toronto Raptors on Saturday.
A number of players stepped up for the Mavericks in their win over the Raptors - Tim Hardaway Jr. was the team's second-leading scorer with 25 points while Kristaps Porzingis chipped in with an 18-point, 11-rebound double-double - but to no surprise, it was Luka Doncic who led the way.
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In 38 minutes of action, Doncic scored a game-high 27 points to go along with 12 assists and nine rebounds. He shot 11-for-24 from the field, 2-for-10 from the 3-point line and 3-for-5 from the free throw line.
Doncic was at his best in the third quarter. He had one particular stretch where he scored or assisted on 12 straight points to help the Mavericks take control of the game.
Doncic put his basketball wizardry on full display on those possessions.
Doncic gets the run started with a layup to tie the game at 62.
On the ensuing possession, Doncic runs a high pick-and-roll with Dwight Powell as the screener. Dorian Finney-Smith, who canned 39.4 percent of his 3-point attempts last season, parks himself in the strong side corner to space the floor while Hardaway makes his way to the opposite wing.
As Powell rolls to the basket after setting his screen on Doncic, Porzingis makes his way from the baseline to the post.
The Mavericks ran the same action earlier in the quarter, leading to a turnaround for Porzingis.
This time, the Raptors have Powell's defender, Khem Birch, jump out to prevent Doncic from turning the corner or getting a clean look at a 3.
With Gary Trent Jr. and Fred VanVleet glued to their assignments, it puts Svi Mykhailiuk between a rock and a hard place, having to choose between following Porzings to the low block or rotating over to prevent Powell from rolling all the way to the basket.
Mykhailiuk decides to stick with Porzingis, which opens up an opportunity for Doncic to thread the needle to Powell.
Keeping the defence honest
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
The Mavericks run the exact same play again and the Raptors defend it the exact same way, only Mykhailiuk shades a tad more towards Powell on the roll.
Instead of forcing a pass to Powell, Doncic gives the ball up to Porzingis in the post. That draws Mykhailiuk back to Porzingis, leading to an alley-oop to Powell, who gets fouled by VanVleet.
VanVleet isn't whistled for a shooting foul, so the Mavericks regain possession.
Too much space
The Raptors decide to switch their pick-and-roll coverage up by having Birch drop instead of hedging. That puts him and his teammates in better position to defend the roll, but it puts them at risk of Doncic getting some daylight.
Sure enough, Doncic's defender, OG Anunoby, gets caught up in Maxi Kleber's screen, opening the door for him to sidestep his way into a 3.
Doncic went 2-for-10 from 3-point range against the Raptors, but he was one of the best 3-point shooters off the dribble last season. According to NBA.com, he made a total of 160 pull-up 3s in 2020-21, putting him behind only Damian Lillard (201) and Stephen Curry (185) for most in the league. He converted 35.6 percent of those opportunities, a solid rate considering the degree of difficulty on many of those attempts.
Floating on up
Now leading 67-62, Doncic brings the ball up for the Mavericks following a foul from Anunoby and runs - you guessed it - another pick-and-roll.
Kleber's screen is deeper this time, with him setting it several feet behind the 3-point line. He's also facing the opposite baseline, not the sideline, which helps Doncic get downhill.
Birch is in a drop coverage once again. He receives a little more help from his teammates - both VanVleet and Dalano Banton drop to wall off the paint - but Doncic rises up for a runner from the free throw line that touches nothing but net.
According to Cleaning The Glass, Doncic ranked in the 91st percentile in shooting efficiency from short midrange last season, otherwise known as floater range. That was a pretty deep floater, but he has the touch to make them.
One more for good measure
Kleber sets the same screen on the opposite side for Doncic, who is now being defended by the much smaller VanVleet, while Birch remains in a drop coverage.
The result this time? A deep stepback over VanVleet.
Six straight pick-and-rolls leading to 12 points and one foul, all at the hands of Doncic. It's those types of sequences that serve as a reminder of how surgical he can be.
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