Luka Doncic fuels Mavs clutch return against Bucks, extends streak by 30 points

MILWAUKEE — Trailing 91-90 with 9:16 left in the fourth quarter Sunday afternoon, Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks signaled how badly they wanted to beat the Milwaukee Bucks.

Just two minutes into his typical five-minute break to start the fourth quarter, Doncic got up from the bench, returned and began chatting with his teammates on the pitch.

Already?

Coach Jason Kidd no longer wanted to see the Bucks respond to his team’s field goals with lead runs. His remaining four timeouts also gave the superstar some rest.

So began the fourth quarter with 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and a steal from Doncic to propel Dallas to a 118-112 victory. The Mavericks edged Milwaukee by seven points after Doncic returned and capped the three-game road trip with their NBA-leading 17th double-digit win.

With 32 points, 15 assists, 8 rebounds and three steals in 39 minutes, Doncic extended his 30-point streak to a career-high five straight games and recorded his third 30-point, 15-assist performance of the season. — as much as the rest of the NBA combined.

“Obviously when you play against superstars, like Giannis [Antetokounmpo] today you still have extra motivation,” said Doncic. “He’s a champ. He’s a two-time MVP and that’s just a little extra there, you know?”

Five teammates – Dwight Powell (22 points, 13 rebounds), Reggie Bullock (16), Jalen Brunson (15), Dorian Finney-Smith (11) and Spencer Dinwiddie (11) – joined Doncic in a double-digit tally.

Perhaps the most dangerous part of all that transpired during the ABC-exclusive showcase?

Doncic hasn’t even started his favorite part of the season.

There is still a week and three games against teams under .500 before playoff preparation can officially begin.

At 49-30, the No. 4 Mavericks sit a half game behind Golden State (49-29) with the head-to-head tiebreaker in their favor and 2.5 games ahead of the No. 5 Utah Jazz (46-32) for home-court advantage threshold.

They looked up to the challenge of winning or going home in the final three quarters against repeat title contenders – even after falling 10 points (35-25) off a hook from Antetokounmpo in the first minute of the second quarter.

“It’s just a calm feeling of stability,” Kidd said. “There is no panic.”

The Bucks’ 8-of-16 start from three did not reflect the Mavericks’ focus on defensive improvement after they surrendered a season-worst 135 points to the postseason-eliminated Washington Wizards on Friday.

But over the next three quarters, Dallas took advantage of Saturday’s movie date and first walkthrough.

They used a steady rotation of assist coverage and double teams against reigning Finals MVP Antetokounmpo to help mask the absence of Maxi Kleber (painful right ankle). Dallas kept Antetokounmpo from feasting inside against his small lineups and held Milwaukee to 7 of 26 for three over the past three quarters.

Antetokounmpo finished with 28 points, 10 rebounds and two assists in 40 minutes. Jrue Holiday added 20 points, including five 3-pointers, while All-Star Khris Middleton had 11 points on 3 of 14 shots.

Add Antetokounmpo to the list of high-profile superstars Doncic has dominated on their grounds since the All-Star break. LeBron James, Steph Curry, Jayson Tatum and Kevin Durant have more company now.

And add another clutch win to the Mavericks’ roll.

Milwaukee had won eight straight in time before Sunday, and Bucks center Brook Lopez hit a 3-pointer with 5:03 remaining to cut Dallas’ deficit to 5 points (106-101).

But Dallas made 10 of 11 free throws, including six from Doncic, to seal a 13th win in 16 clutch games since Feb. 1.

The Bucks could complain of one case in that streak – when officials whistled Holiday for a 3-point foul on Doncic after his hand grazed the Mavericks superstar’s hair. They upheld the call after the Milwaukee challenge.

Doncic did the three foul shots and, again, got the last laugh.

“He also tried to do the two lines on the other side,” Doncic joked after the match, referring to his side-striped hairstyle. “Jrue said to me after the game, ‘You’re welcome for the haircut.’ »

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