It feels like at this point in Luka Doncic's career it's not surprising when he records a triple-double. He flirts with that statline on a nightly basis, and he already ranks 10th all-time on the NBA's career triple-doubles list with 47 at just 23 years of age. But in Thursday night's 129-125 overtime win against the Brooklyn Nets, Doncic entered rarified air, becoming just the 10th player in league history to record at least three 40-point triple doubles. Doncic is now tied with Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Pete Maravich and Elgin Baylor to do it exactly three times over their career.
Like we've seen in the past with Doncic, the Mavericks needed all 41 points that he dropped to pull out a tough win on the road against a Brooklyn team that had Kyrie Irving put up 39 points and Kevin Durant add another 37. What made Doncic's performance even more impressive was how efficient he was in the process, going 14 of 28 from the field.
But while his scoring is getting most of the attention, his passing was the real standout of the night. We've seen Doncic live up to that "Luka Magic" moniker in the past, and Thursday was no different as he dished out 14 assists, including four crucial ones in overtime to feed open shooters like Tim Hardaway Jr. and Reggie Bullock to put the game out of reach. But by far the pass of the night came in the third quarter when Doncic pulled off this insane no-look, overhead dime to Maxi Kleber, who bobbled it a little before finishing it at the rim.
Kleber's been on the receiving end of several similar passes in the past from Doncic, and despite knowing he's capable of fitting a pass through the tiniest of windows -- or making a window appear when it doesn't seem there is one -- Kleber was still caught off guard by the young superstar.
"It was a really ridiculous pass, I don't know how he saw it, but for some reason playing with Luka now for a longer time it kind of was like 'he might see that pass,'" Kleber said after the game. "I saw all guys helping up on him, so I was like, I have to be ready, and then the pass came. I don't know how he saw it, but it was an incredible pass."
When Kleber was asked if Doncic practices those passes on a regular basis, he was quick to confirm those are a regular for the Slovenian superstar.
"That's like what he does in practice," Kleber said. "Sometimes you might think he's playing around a little bit, but he actually works on that stuff and he has a really good feel for where the guys are and where the help is coming from. Sometimes for him it's the easiest way to get the ball to the man, instead of, like, pivot and waste a second, he's just gonna throw it over his head because he knows you're gonna be there."
When Doncic was asked what goes through his mind in that situation, he said it was tough to explain.
"I don't know, I honestly don't know," Doncic said. "It's tough to explain. I don't really know the answer to that, but probably say I try some things on the court and it looks good."
As far as practicing those types of passes, he confirmed what Kleber said.
"Sometimes in practice I try to do some dumb things, probably, that's how I'm gonna say it, but then sometimes in games they work," Doncic said.
It's not surprising to hear that Doncic is like a mad scientist in practice tinkering with these passes on a regular basis, it's just insanely impressive that he manages to pull them off in game situations. Clearly his teammates know to expect anything when they're sharing the floor with him, and it's resulting in some highlight-reel assists in the process.
Fortunately for the Mavericks, Doncic's standout night resulted in a win. Dallas might only be 2-2, but their two losses were by a combined four points and the real silver lining is that Doncic looks like he hasn't skipped a beat to start the season. After so much chatter surrounding his conditioning at the start of the last two seasons, Doncic is playing at an MVP-level.
He leads the league with 36.3 points per game after the win in Brooklyn, and with averages of 9.5 rebounds and 9.3 assists he's on the cusp of posting a triple-double for the season. A weakness? His efficiency from 3-point territory is pretty shaky at 26.3 percent, but Dallas has the top offensive rating in the league. If Doncic keeps turning in performances like the one against the Nets, and his teammates keep playing at a high level as well, the Mavericks could be a dangerous team as the season continues.