Welcome back to NBA Star Power Index: A weekly gauge of the players getting the most buzz around the league. Inclusion on this list isn't necessarily a good thing -- it simply means you're capturing the NBA world's attention. This is also not a ranking. The players listed are in no particular order. This column will run every week throughout the regular season.
Doncic scored 50 points against the Rockets last Friday, and there's no point in even talking about it. It was pedestrian. A regular night at the office. On Tuesday, this man hung a 60 spot on the Knicks in rallying the Mavericks from a nine-point deficit with 33.2 seconds to play to one of the wildest and most unlikely victories you will ever see.
On top of his 60 points, a career-high, Doncic grabbed a career-high 21 rebounds. He threw in 10 assists for fun. That makes him the first player in NBA history to card a 60-point, 20-rebound triple-double, and just the second player in history (James Harden) to post a 60-point triple-double of any sort.
Here are seven numbers to know from Luka's historic night:
- First 60-point, 20-rebound, 10-assist game all-time
- Second 60-point triple-double all-time (James Harden, 60-11-10)
- First 60-point, 20-rebound game since Shaq in 2000
- NBA's first 60-point game this season
- Mavericks single-game scoring record
- Doncic career high (points and rebounds)
- Doncic's 56.3 Game Score was sixth best since 1983-84
That last number is per our CBS Sports research department. Game Score reflects the full box score in identifying the best single-game performances. Here are the only five that have topped Doncic's 56.3 since 1883-84:
- Michael Jordan (64.6): 69 pts, 23-37 FG, 18 Reb, 6 Ast, 4 Stl
- Kobe Bryant (63.5): 81 pts, 28-46 FG, 18-20 FG, 3 Stl
- Karl Malone (60.2): 61 pts, 21-26 FG, 19-23 FT, 18 Reb
- David Thompson (57.0): 73 pts, 28-38 FG, 17-20 FT, 7 Reb
- James Harden (56.6): 60 pts, 10 Reb, 11 Ast, 17-18 FT, 4 Stl
- Luka Doncic (56.3): 60 pts, 21 Reb, 10 Ast, 21-31 FG, 16-22 FT
Wilt Chamberlain's numbers are supposed to be mythical. Doncic is out here topping them. The most points Wilt ever scored in a game in which he also tallied 20 rebounds was 53. This is the work of a magician. That nine-point deficit Dallas erased in 33 ticks? That is the first time that has happened over the last two decades. True story. Since 2002, 13,885 teams have trailed by at least nine points with 35 or fewer seconds to play, and the Mavericks are the only one -- the only one! -- to come back to win. If you watched it, you witnessed a basketball miracle.
Morant might want to watch his mouth. Since his "I'm fine in the West" comment heard 'round the NBA world, which he doubled down on when given the chance to walk back his statement that the Celtics are the only team he considers a threat, the Grizzlies have been slapped by the Warriors without Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins and the Suns without Devin Booker.
Here was the first edition of Morant's bulletin-board material:
Malika Andrews: "Who do you look at around the league as you're studying and say, 'We're gonna have to run through them?'"— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) December 21, 2022
Ja Morant: "Celtics"
Malik Andrews: "No one in the West."
Ja Morant: "Nah. I'm fine in the West."
(h/t @_Talkin_NBA )
And the double down:
Morant and the Grizzlies aren't going to pay much mind to the fact that they've lost three of their last four, first falling to Denver before the aforementioned beatings handed down by Golden State and Phoenix, in the aftermath of Morant's comment, reasoning that these are just, after all, regular-season games.
But that's the thing: the regular season is, at this point, the only thing Morant and the Grizzlies have to stand on. This group hasn't been past the second round of the playoffs. You always lend a lot of leeway to players when they make these sorts of comments. They're world-class athletes. They're wired to view themselves as the best.
And Morant, himself, is warranted in thinking he can topple anyone standing in his way. He's on what is, at present, a relatively long list of legit MVP candidates. He's not at the top or even in the top tier, but he's on the list. He's been a monster in the playoffs before. The Grizzlies are very, very good. Confidence is part of that equation.
To say this once is understandable. To double down on it? Just completely dismissing the Warriors, who won the title last year after eliminating Memphis, and the Suns, who have won 115 games over the previous two regular seasons, or the Nuggets, who are the current No. 1 seed in the West, is starting to border on disrespectful. The Warriors certainly took note. If you watched that game on Sunday, you saw a proud Golden State team led by the suddenly perpetually offended Klay Thompson and a brash Jordan Poole, you saw a team with a message to send. Morant would probably be smart to listen to it, at least until he makes it to a conference final.
After hanging a 41-point, 15-assist, 15-rebound triple-double on the Suns on Sunday, Jokic took just 10 shots in a win over the Kings on Tuesday. He doesn't force anything. He plays off pure feel, and he's as in control of his game as anyone in the league. Sometimes he's an aggressive scorer -- increasingly as the season has gone on -- and some nights he's feeling the facilitation. There's not one part of this guy that seems to care about chasing his own glory.
Nonetheless, he's once again on the short list of MVP candidates. It would be his third straight. Nobody's done that since Larry Bird in the mid-eighties. Entering play Wednesday, Jokic is averaging 25.3 points, 11 rebounds and 9.5 assists on 61.8-percent shooting. No player in history has finished a season clearing all those statistical bars. In addition, Jokic leads the league in both triple-doubles and double-doubles, and the Nuggets, winners of eight of their last nine, are currently the top seed in the West.
Embiid put 48 points on the Wizards on Tuesday, but it as Philadelphia saw its eight-game win streak come to an end. By the end of the night, Embiid's showing was a footnote after Luka upstaged, well, everyone in history. The two are virtually tied for the scoring leading (Embiid 33.7, Doncic 33.6), and depending on who you talk to, they might rank that way in the MVP conversation. This was Embiid's sixth 40-point game of the season and second in a week, as he went for 44 on Friday in a win over the Clippers.
The Nets have won nine straight and 12 of their last 13. Over that span, Durant has shot north of 60 percent from the field eight times without a single game under 53 percent. His efficiency, even by his standards, has been mind-blowing this season. He does most of his work on jumpers, highly contested ones at that, a shot diet on which no other player, probably in history, could live so healthily, and yet he's also the most efficient scorer among volume drivers in the league.
On top of that, Durant has been Brooklyn's most important defender this season (though Ben Simmons is starting to come for that designation). Oh, by the way, the day after Christmas, Durant passed Tim Duncan as the 15th all-time leading scorer. He also passed Kobe Bryant for career-made 3-pointers. Decent week.