NBA

Doncic revels in feel-good factor after eighth triple-double

By Sports Desk March 11, 2021

Luka Doncic was happy to indulge in the feel-good factor after his stunning display in the Dallas Mavericks' win over the San Antonio Spurs.

Doncic put up his his eighth triple-double of the NBA season as the Mavericks were victorious for the fourth match running, downing the Spurs 115-104.

In a contest pitting seventh versus eighth in the West, the Slovenian posted 22 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists to complete his 33rd career triple-double.

The 22-year-old is now level with Bob Cousy in 11th on the all-time triple-doubles list.

He had defender Dejounte Murray tied up in knots at times and enjoyed getting the better of a quality opponent.

"It's a great feeling but I think he was doing an amazing job on me," said Doncic. 

"I think he's a really good defender but when you do a move, you feel good about it."

With Kristaps Porzingis regaining full fitness after knee surgery and top-scoring on 28 points, Doncic feels the best is yet to come from his Latvian team-mate.

"We are all progressing as a team," he said. 

"KP has been way better, he's getting the confidence after his injury. I think he's still going to build on his confidence and is going to be way better."

Those were sentiments echoed by the man himself, with Porzingis feeling good about his recovery.

"I feel like I'm getting there. I still have to keep working," he said.

"After surgery, the leg is not feeling the same, so you have to keep working on that strength and make sure it's strong and stable and you feel confident.

"It's non-stop work, but I'm feeling better with each game and looking forward to the second part of the season."

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    The return of Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart from a foot injury ignited the Celtics on the offensive end just as much as defensively, with the team hitting a red-hot 20-of-40 from three-point range.

    Boston's five that played at least 30 minutes – Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Grant Williams, Al Horford and Smart – shot 17-of-29 from long-range, and combined for 23 assists, which was two more than Miami had as a team.

    Speaking to post-game media, Butler said the Celtics "tried to embarrass us", but pointed out that they were always going to be facing an uphill battle against such an outlier shooting performance.

    "You do have to move on, but I don't like to move on from this. It has to hurt," he said.

    "They tried to embarrass us – they did embarrass us. I think we got to realise that, or use it as fuel, but realise that the game can get out of hand when you're playing against a really good team like them that can score the ball and get stops.

    "They made shots that they missed last game. That's just what it is.

    "It's going to be hard to beat anybody when they shoot 50 per cent from the field and 50 per cent from three. They were the more physical team overall, and they got one on the road.

    "Overall, we just have to be better. We've got a tough job to do to go over there and win, but if they did it, we can do it as well."

    He added: "I look at it as 'it can't get too much worse'. They whipped our tail on our home floor.

    "I guess if they do it on their home floor it's supposed to happen, but I don't see us doing that again. 

    "The first half has been brutal for us in both of these games, we just got to come out and play harder from the jump and be ready, because they be throwing some haymakers in the first half."

    Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he did not feel like his side played poorly – but that it felt like the Celtics wanted revenge for Game 1.

    "You definitely have to credit Boston," he said. "It's not just that they came in with great urgency and physicality – they did have that, for sure – they also played well. They played really well on both ends.

    "We know what they're capable of defensively – they've done this to some very good offenses. I'm sure they were not happy with us putting up 118 in Game 1, and they came out very disruptive. 

    "They got us out of our normal rhythm and flow, and the shot-making on the other end was very tough to overcome.

    "You get to this point – in the Conference Finals – you just have very good teams. Teams without many weaknesses, it's great competition.

    "This only counts as one, and that's what the experiences players and staff in the locker room understand. We don't like it, but they played extremely well."

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    A 39-14 third quarter in the Heat's favour effectively decided Game 1 as the Celtics collapsed on the road, but bounced back, cutting down turnovers and putting four quarters together to split the first two games in Miami.

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    Udoka praised his side's mental toughness in responding against a side that came at them in the opening game of the series.

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    Smart was an important figure in his return from a foot injury, filling the stats sheet and finishing with 24 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds and three steals.

    Horford provided a little bit of everything meanwhile, ending the game with 10 points, three assists and rebounds as well as a steal and a block.

    Udoka commended the returning duo, allowing the team to capitalise on positive aspects from the first game.

    "It was great to have the vets back, obviously," he said. "A calming presence there. We didn't get off to our best start, we were a little slow to start but we fought right back into it.

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    In arguably their best half of the season, the Celtics were nearly flawless to open the game, shooting nine-of-11 from three-point range in the first quarter on the way to putting up two consecutive 35-point frames, leading 70-45 at half-time.

    The Heat threatened to make things interesting in the third period as Jimmy Butler piled on 16 of his game-high 29 points but the Celtics had an answer every time, shooting 20-of-40 from three for the contest, including 17-of-29 from the five Boston players to play more than 30 minutes each.

    Jayson Tatum finished with a team-high 27 points on eight-of-13 shooting with five rebounds and five assists, while Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart had 24 on eight-of-22 shooting with nine rebounds, 12 assists and three steals.

    Jaylen Brown chipped in an efficient 24 points on nine-of-17 shooting, and Grant Williams was excellent once again for the Celtics with 19 points off the bench, shooting five-of-seven from the field, and was +37 in plus/minus over his 32 minutes. Only Payton Pritchard finished with a higher plus/minus, finishing plus +39 in his 23 minutes, scoring 10 points with two assists in Derrick White's absence.

    After dominating the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics, averaging over 20 points per game on 60 per cent shooting, Bam Adebayo had his second straight disappointing showing. After posting 10 points and four rebounds in Game 1, he followed it up with just six points and nine rebounds. 

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