No one denies that Luka Doncic is already an all-time great talent.
But on Monday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, he added to his resume by becoming the 21st player in NBA history to record a 20-point triple-double with three-plus blocks and three-plus steals. And it was his play that led the Dallas Mavericks to a 104-102 wire-to-wire win.
Yet, in typical Doncic fashion, he wasn’t wowed by the monumental stat. He just wants to play even better.
“I think I’ve got to shoot way better,” he said, after going 4-of-17 from the floor and 0-6 from three.
In total, he scored 20 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, dished out 12 assists, blocked three shots, and plucked three steals. That performance places Doncic on a list of players that includes Hakeem Olajuwon, who accomplished the feat six times; Giannis Antetokounmpo, who’s done it four times; and Michael Jordan, who’s achieved it twice. Again, Doncic remains in rare air.
Luka Dončić finished tonight’s game with 20 points, 11 rebounds, 12 assists, 3 blocks and 3 steals.
— Mavs PR (@MavsPR) January 18, 2022
Doncic in the last month
However, the last month of basketball for Doncic hasn’t been as seamless as his triple-double may present.
He’s averaging 21 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 9.6 assists. But he’s also shooting 38 percent from the field and 17 percent from three.
“I can’t explain [it],” Doncic said. “I need to just be better than that.”
Despite his efficiency struggles, Dallas is 9-1 in its last 10 games. The main reason for the stark turnaround has been Dallas’ defense.
In the last 10 games, the Mavericks are ranked No. 1 in the league in defensive rating (98.0), opponent field goal percentage (43.1), and opponent three-point field-goal percentage (29.6).
What is special about Dallas’ defensive run is Doncic appears bought in on the ugly side of the floor as well. In past seasons, Doncic was a net-negative on the defensive end. Now, he’s using his size to make life difficult for opposing guards. By no means is he a defensive stopper, but he’s not a turnstile either.
Doncic’s offense will always be historic. But Jason Kidd has him playing defense too.
Doncic is the sole proprietor of 41 triple-doubles. That’s more than the 40 every other Mavericks’ player has, combined. And if he continues to play defense while putting up historic numbers, Dallas is never out of the NBA championship chase.
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Feature image via Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports.