March 4, 2024

DALLAS — Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic was exhausted, emotionally spent, extremely proud and quite perturbed as he exited the American Airlines Center court after a sensational, wild outing Saturday night.

One night after becoming a father for the first time, Doncic helped a short-handed Dallas squad rally from a 24-point deficit in the fourth quarter to take the lead, but the Mavs failed to finish off the Oklahoma City Thunder. Dallas’ 30-0 spurt — the biggest run in the NBA since at least 1997-98, according to the Elias Sports Bureau — and Doncic’s 36-point, 15-rebound, 18-assist performance weren’t enough for the Mavericks to avoid a 126-120 loss to the Thunder.

“It was the happiest day of my life with the baby, but then today’s game was a big roller coaster, too,” said Doncic, who wrote his daughter’s name, Gabriela, on one of his signature Jordan Luka 2 shoes. “I’m so sad we didn’t win this game, but man, we gave a big, big effort.”

The Thunder responded to the Mavs’ massive run by scoring 15 of the game’s final 18 points, including the final 10. Doncic committed two turnovers in the final 87 seconds, including a traveling call with 1:27 remaining that enraged him.

“My view is it probably was a travel, but those travels happen about, my opinion, 20 times a game,” he said. “So a minute and a half to go, if you’re going to call that travel for the first time in the game, you can’t do that. I don’t think so. But I think those travels happen a lot of times in one game and the NBA doesn’t call the travels, so I was really surprised.”

Mavericks coach Jason Kidd declined to offer an opinion on the critical traveling call.

“I haven’t got a chance to look at it, so I can’t comment,” Kidd said. “I can’t afford to get fined right now.”

Doncic was even more outraged after Oklahoma City’s Jalen Williams drove past him for the go-ahead basket with 41 seconds remaining, because he thought Williams “did the exact same thing” without being whistled for a walk.

“So it pissed me off,” said Doncic, who angrily confronted referee Mitchell Erwin after the final buzzer before another official and Mavericks staffers stood in between them to prevent the situation from escalating.

Doncic took accountability for letting his frustration impact his focus in the final minute. Coming out of a timeout following Williams’ bucket, Doncic had an inbounds pass intercepted by Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who converted the turnover into a transition layup.

“That can’t happen,” Doncic said. “That probably lost us the game. The focus should be there, but I was a little bit exhausted.”

It was a disappointing end to a spectacular effort by Doncic, especially considering the circumstances. He said he got about four or five hours of sleep Friday night — by far his most in a few days — and doubted early in the first quarter whether he could handle his normal workload.

“Then I just told [Kidd], ‘I’m good. Let me go,'” Doncic said, knowing the Mavs needed him to dominate to have any hope of beating Oklahoma City with Dallas’ second- and third-leading scorers Kyrie Irving (foot) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (back) among a handful of rotation players sitting on the bench in street clothes.

Doncic played 46 minutes, his most ever in a regulation game. His only rest came midway through the second quarter. He scored or assisted on 81 points, the most by any player in a game this season.

Doncic joined Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to have multiple games with at least 35 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Doncic, whose 59th career triple-double tied him with Larry Bird for ninth on the all-time list, accounted for all but three of the Mavs’ points during their 30-0 run. He scored seven points and dishing out seven assists during the spurt, which started with Doncic finding two-way player A.J. Lawson for a 3 to cut the deficit to 111-90 with 10:25 remaining and ended with Doncic making a transition layup off a steal to give Dallas a 117-111 lead with 4:18 to go.

“It was magic,” said Mavericks rookie center Dereck Lively II, who had career highs of 20 points, 16 rebounds and 7 blocks while going 9-of-9 from the floor, including three dunks off Doncic feeds during the fourth-quarter run. “Got to get him the ball. He’s going to make some magic happen.”

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