The Trail Blazers put another brick in the foundation of the “Legend of Luka Doncic” Sunday night – and lived to tell about it.
Doncic dropped a game-tying, three-point bomb from the right corner while falling out of bounds at the horn to end the fourth quarter.
The shot sent the game into overtime but Portland recovered to take a 121-118 overtime win over the Mavericks.
It was a miraculous shot but not a surprise, given the impact the rookie prodigy has made for the Dallas Mavericks so far this season.
Doncic, a Lithuanian, signed a pro contract with Real Madrid at the age of 13 and made his debut with the team at 16, helping the team to the Euroleague championship.
But he didn’t quite have enough to beat the Blazers.
Portland seemed in control throughout most of the game, leading by as many as 14 and by 10 with six and a half minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
“It was a wild finish,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “Obviously, Doncic hit an outstanding shot. We didn’t defend it well but it was an amazing shot. We regrouped in overtime, kind of maintained the lead throughout the overtime.”
The Mavericks had three chances to hit a game-tying three-pointer with under 30 seconds to play in overtime but missed them all.
“The last possession got a little wild with all the threes but we were due to have a little good luck go our way,” Stotts said.
It was another game when the Trail Blazers struggled from long distance – hitting just 11 of 38 from three – but shot 47 percent overall, thanks to the inside presence of Jusuf Nurkic and Meyers Leonard.
Nurkic made five his eight shots, had 12 rebounds, six assists and two blocks before fouling out after 29 minutes on the court.
Leonard came on to make six of his 10 shots, grab six rebounds and score 13 points.
“I’m happy that Coach Stotts has given me some freedom out there,” Leonard said. “All I used to do, in high school and college, is dunk the ball. I never shot the ball.
“When I was younger I needed to find a way to play. All I did was dunk. I was bigger than everybody. So I’ve extended my range and become a three-point shooter but I’m trying to be aggressive from several different areas on the floor.”
As usual Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum carried a heavy load for Portland.
Lillard had 33 points and seven assists, McCollum totaled 22 points and five assists. Each made big shots down the stretch in overtime, as did Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu.
But afterward, a whole lot of the talk was about Doncic’s incredible shot.
“The guy has an uncanny knack for making shots like that,” Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle said. “I can’t say I was surprised when it went in. I’ve seen him do things like that too many times.”
The Mavericks had the ball out of bounds with six-tenths of a second left on the clock to set up Doncic, who caught the ball in the corner and fell out of bounds as he shot.
“I mean, it just went in,” he said. “It was a tough shot. I don’t know what to say.”
Does he practice those shots?
“Yeah, most of the time,” he said. “A lot of people think it’s a joke, but it’s not. Sometimes you need those shots.”
Lillard said, “He’s a really, really, really good player. It’s very obvious he’s been playing professionally. I’m sometimes on the weak side seeing him come off the pick and roll and his eyes are open. He’s seeing everything. He’s making the right plays.
“He’s kind of manipulating the situation to get what he wants to get out of the plays. And you don’t see that out of rookies – they’re playing much more off their natural ability.
“He’s got real game. He’s a real pro.”