Doncic and Mitchell reaching new heights in playoffs
One after the other, Luka Doncic and Donovan Mitchell turned in record book-worthy performances on the same court at Disney.
In different series. And in different fashions, too.
But the two young players have their opponents sharing a similar dilemma: How to stop them? Or at least, slow them down.
Doncic and the seventh-seeded Dallas Mavericks are tied at two games apiece with the Los Angeles Clippers heading into Game 5 on Tuesday in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The dynamic Doncic made sure of that with a buzzer-beating, 3-pointer in overtime Sunday to cap another triple-double. Adding even more to the intrigue was this: His step-back shot was on a left ankle so tender he was a game-time decision.
Not to be outdone in the nightcap, Mitchell erupted for 51 points in Game 4 to give the sixth-seeded Utah Jazz a 3-1 lead over Denver. It was just enough to hold off the Nuggets and Jamal Murray, who went for 50 points.
Mitchell “is playing out of this world right now,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.
Both Doncic and Mitchell are accomplishing rarely seen postseason feats inside the bubble. Mitchell joined Allen Iverson, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain as the only NBA players to record a pair of 50 or more point games in a single postseason. The 23-year-old Mitchell also had a 57-point burst in Game 1.
At 21, Doncic put himself in a class of his own. He’s the youngest NBA player with a 40-point playoff triple-double, according to the Mavericks. He finished Sunday’s win with 43 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists.
What’s more, his 28-foot buzzer-beat to win was the second-longest in postseason history, the Mavericks announced on social media. The only one from a longer range was by Lillard, who hit from 37 feet to eliminate Oklahoma City in the 2019 playoffs.
Their peers are definitely taking notice. Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, and LeBron James were among those weighing in on Doncic’s remarkable shot on social media. Dwyane Wade had glowing remarks for both players:
— On Doncic after his deep 3-pointer: “Luka we are not worthy.”
— On Mitchell after he took over: “Spidadmitchell Is becoming a superstar!”
Flattering and all, but both have much more work to do.
“I know the Clippers are one of the best teams in the league,” Doncic said. “But we showed how hard we can fight.”
While the Jazz-Nuggets and Mavs-Clippers play on, the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics earned some rest courtesy of sweeps. The Raptors sent home Brooklyn on Sunday and Boston dispatched of the Philadelphia 76ers.
It’s some much-needed downtime, too, especially for Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry after he sprained his left ankle in Game 4. Boston forward Gordon Hayward sprained his right ankle in Game 1 against Philadelphia and is expected to be out for at least three more weeks as he rehabs.
A closer look at Tuesday’s games:
NUGGETS VS. JAZZ
Utah leads 3-1. Game 5, 6:30 p.m. EDT, TNT.
— NEED TO KNOW: Utah is outscoring the Nuggets by a 142-92 margin in the third quarter during the series.
— KEEP AN EYE ON: Murray. In Denver’s Game 1 overtime win, he scored 36. But in the next two losses, he was held to 14 and 12. He got back on track in Game 4 and scored 50 points, which was the most-ever by a Nuggets player in a playoff game.
— INJURY WATCH: For the first time all series, Gary Harris (right hip) was listed as “doubtful” before Game 4. That could be encouraging. Denver will still be without Will Barton III (right knee).
— PRESSURE IS ON: Obviously, the Nuggets. “The series is not over,” Malone maintained. “We don’t have to win three games in one. We’ve just got to win one game to keep the series alive. That’s our plan right now.”
MAVERICKS VS. CLIPPERS
Tied at 2 games apiece. Game 5, 9 p.m. EDT, TNT.
— NEED TO KNOW: Nothing appears to rattle the youthful Mavericks, who worked their way back from a 21-point, second-quarter deficit Sunday. It was the largest comeback win in franchise history.
— INJURY WATCH: Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis was held out Sunday with soreness in his right knee. He’s averaging 23.7 points and 8.7 rebounds in the first-round series.
— KEEP AN EYE ON: Paul George. The guard/forward is shooting just 29% from the floor in the series. Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he wants George to shoot 20 or more shots. ”I feel very confident about PG,” Rivers said.