Luka Doncic historic shooting masterclass overshadows Aussie v Aussie showdown in Atlanta

From State Farm Arena, Atlanta

When Luka Doncic is in a mood, no NBA team can stop him.

The Atlanta Hawks found that out the hard way, as the Slovenian superstar put on a scoring clinic, becoming just the tenth player in NBA history to produce a 70-point game.

The day after Australia Day, Patty Mills’ Atlanta was taking on Boomers teammates from Dallas in Josh Green, but their involvement on the court was humbled by the might of Doncic, who finished with 73 points as the Mavs won a high-scoring shootout 148-143.

His career-high performance came on the anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s death, and the Mavericks star knew how special the occasion was, paying tribute to a legend of the game.

“We all love Kobe, I can’t believe that it is four years already, so it’s special – I just wish he was still here” Doncic said.

He had to battle through a double team in the fourth quarter, but even the man himself could not believe how hot he was throughout the game.

“It’s just exciting, sometimes you cannot believe it,” he said.

“It was a record for me, it was special for me, but we were trying to win so to get that as well, was great.

“Maybe after I had 41 in the first half (I knew it was a special night), but you never really know sometimes you feel great other times you don’t. I mean, today in my warmups I missed a lot of shots.”

Green was the only starter of the Aussie contingent and produced a three-pointer in the opening two minutes followed up by a bucket, giving the Mavs 11-7 lead heading into the first time out, just over four minutes in.

Exum entered the game five minutes in, soon followed by Patty Mills, with all three Aussies on the court for a short period. Mills marked his Boomer teammate Exum, but the Hawk’s first stint was less than three minutes, without a stat to his name.

Green was one of the two go-to options for the Mavericks in the first quarter, lighting up the court with a spectacular reverse dunk, before coming to the bench with his second personal foul of the game.

Hawks surged home to finish the first quarter in front, but that’s when Donic got hot, with seven of the first ten points to start the second quarter.

Green took his score to double figures midway through the second, but Atlanta always had the reply, and neither team were able to take away any substantial lead.

Doncic finished a monster first half with 41 points to go along with four assists and five rebounds. To put it in context, Atlanta’s Bogdan Bogdanovic was the next top scorer for the half with 15 points.

Dante Exum saw out final seconds of first half after an offensive foul to Derrick Jones Jr that left him with a painful injury. But he and Mills both finished the half scoreless.

Doncic picked up where he left off in the third quarter, with Dallas’ first three of the second half, while Green soon had 15 points.

Exum was not enjoying the same success, missing his second from the field in a row to remain scoreless.

But at the halfway stage of the quarter, the Mavericks had opened up a nine-point lead. As the Slovenian passed 50, Green ended the third quarter with 17 points.

Exum’s first points came late in the third quarter, producing back-to-back buckets to keep Dallas six points clear heading into the final quarter.

Atlanta briefly had the margin back to three in the opening stages of the fourth before the ‘Luka Doncic show’ resumed and even Hawks fans were out of their seats – eight straight points and the quarter was not even two minutes old. 

Showing the confidence of the Mavericks superstar, with his team cruising to the win, he tried a behind-the-back pass to himself, tripped himself over but still managed to keep the ball alive for a teammate.

Hawks rallied late, cutting the lead to within three points in the final two minutes, but Dallas held on in a thriller Exum putting the icing on the cake with a beautiful three-pointer to end the comeback run.

Doncic’s 73 points came at 25/33 from the field including eight three-pointers. In addition, he had 10 rebounds and seven assists.

As good as the individual performance was from Doncic, Dallas head coach Jason Kidd was just as impressed by his all-round team effort, admitting to reporters that “he is the game plan” – but he also knows he can perform even better.

“His ability to make shots, create shots, find open guys, he did that at a high level tonight,” Kidd said.

“He was letting everyone know he was alright, and that we were alright. Being able to get to the free throw line, he made his free throws – it was a complete game.

“You look at the 70 points, but he’s probably thinking about in the locker room (about) the three assists and he could have had a triple-double.

“In the first quarter, I was talking to the coaching staff and I thought he needed to go for 40 or 50 to give us a chance to win.

“Just with the injuries and offence that’s missing, he’s got to carry the load and he understood that – but he gave us that in the first half. Then I thought maybe we shouldn’t be greedy, but we should ask for another 40 to find a way to win.”

Green was awestruck, comparing his teammate’s performance to a video game.

“I have never seen anything like that; it was like I was in a game of 2K – but whoever was controlling him was doing a great job,” the Australian said.

“I looked at (his stats) at half time and he had 40 and I was like ‘damn’, and then I looked again going into the fourth quarter it was like 60 – just ridiculous.

Green made it to 21 points (four assists and two rebounds) and Exum finished with nine points (3 assists).

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