Wednesday’s result: Dallas Mavericks 114, Memphis Grizzlies 113 ... and we've got Mavs Donuts ...
DONUT 1: LUKA LEGEND Regardless that it came in a regular-season game in the middle of April, Luka Doncic’s lunging, lurching, lofty 3-pointer at the buzzer – the Luka Leaner – is one of the most improbable, impressive, iconic shots in Mavs’ history.
The reward was little more than some breathing room at the butt end of the Western Conference playoff chase, but Doncic’s H-O-R-S-E winner belongs alongside Vince Carter’s corner 3-pointer against the Spurs, Jason Terry’s triple in LeBron’s mug, Dirk Nowitzki’s lefty layup in the 2011 Finals clincher and, yes, his own 35-footer to beat the Clippers in the playoff bubble.
DONUT 2: LUKA PLUS LUCK And to think, Doncic almost wore this game’s goat horns for not being able to make a wide-open 15-footer.
He had a chance to secure the Mavs at least a game-tying shot in the final seconds, but back-rimmed a free throw with 2.2 seconds. Amazingly, however, Grizzlies’ 90-percent free-thrower Grayson Allen missed two free throws to set up Doncic’s dramatics.
Said coach Rick Carlisle, while labeling Luka a "Houdini'': “You pull off a miracle in a game like that once in a blue moon.”
DONUT 3: STRANGE STRATEGY Again, Luka’s one-leg, off-balance floater from 24 feet was more trick shot than scripted game-winner, but hard to fathom what the Grizzlies were doing defensively in those final 1.8 seconds.
Doncic didn’t even need a screen to get open and receive the direct inbound pass. Then, instead of trapping him, two Grizzlies passively parted and allowed Luka to squeeze through the opening to work his magic.
“Honestly, I don't remember,” Doncic said when asked if he got a good look at the rim. “I was kind of falling down. It’s kind of lucky, but we’ll take it.”
DONUT 4: STOLEN SUCCESS Let’s be honest, Memphis deserved to win this one. The Grizzlies did everything right, except have their best free-throw shooter miss two with 2.2 seconds remaining. Over the game’s last three quarters the Mavs led for only 48 seconds.
DONUT 5: NEGATIVE NUMBER Newcomer J.J. Redick splashed a couple of 3-pointers in the first half to keep the Mavs close. He did it wearing uniform No. 17, immediately making him the best player in Mavs history to own that number. Or perhaps your memories are a tad more fond than mine of Ollie Mack, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Jeff Withey and 2003 French (Mis)Connection Antoine Rigaudeau? Yuck.
DONUT 6: ALMOST IN THE ABYSS The Mavs almost lost their third consecutive game for the first time since January and we almost spent all day Thursday bemoaning how they were bullied in the paint and missed crucial free throws and didn’t get clean looks down the stretch and … but Luka.
DONUT 7: WORST TO FIRST Doncic’s late-game heroics came after one of his worst first halves of the season.
He scored only four points on 1-of-6 shooting. The Mavs were lucky to be down only three points at halftime before Superman stopped hitting snooze.
DONUT 8: MISSING LINK Don’t we all wish the Mavs had Jonas Valanciunas? Without ever having a play designed for him, the Grizzlies’ 7-foot center can dominate a game. He had 19 points and 15 rebounds, constantly bulldozing the Mavs’ bigs in the paint. Valanciunas now has 16 consecutive double-doubles and 23 straight games of 10+ rebounds.
Imagine plugging that into Dallas’ arsenal.
DONUT 9: PINING AGAINST PLAY-IN One way to avoid the NBA’s controversial “Play-In” playoff is to well, avoid it by playing your way out of it.
The win secures the season series over Memphis and essentially gives the Mavs a three-game lead on the 8th-place Grizzlies with 18 games remaining.
Dallas, of course, wants to catch Portland for the 6th spot and avoid the extra post-season nonsense.
DONUT 10: PROMISING FOR PLAYOFFS The Mavs now have 11 road wins against teams with winning records, fourth-most in the NBA.
DONUT 11: LUKA’S OFFICE Clippers last Summer. Celtics this year. And now the Grizzlies.
Doncic just loves that area. Same end of the court. Same, left side of the court. But while he expressed some shock at the flip shot swishing – “I was really surprised when it went in.” – Carlisle merely shrugged.
“I can’t tell you how many thousands of dollars I’ve lost to him because of half-court shots,” said Rick of the in-house friendly wagers. “One time in Mexico City I paid him off in pesos, I was so pissed.
“Get the ball in his hands and he believes anything is possible.”
DONUT 12: THE FINAL WORD In a game oozing playoff implications, the Mavs got a little help from Memphis and a lot of magic from Doncic to win – to date – their most important game of the season. No shot will be more important to Dallas’ playoff push than the Luka Leaner.