Mavericks Notes: Luka, Game 2, Irving, Gafford/Lively

The Mavericks took a commanding 2-0 lead over the Timberwolves in Game 2 on Friday night after Mavs superstar Luka Doncic hit a stepback three-pointer over Rudy Gobert to win a second consecutive road game.

As Tim Cato of The Athletic writes, Doncic has already taken the reins of this so-called new generation in the league as the best player under 25. He has earned five straight First Team All-NBA honors and could be the first from the new wave of young stars to win a title.

When you look at his game, I don’t know what you can nitpick about,” Mavs coach Jason Kidd said amid pouring praise onto Doncic after the game. “He can post up. He can pass. He has this fire that I think sometimes can be taken out of context. It’s just understanding that he wants to win. He’s not scared of nobody, and sometimes that can scare people.

Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards earned a larger share of the national spotlight entering the series, Sam Amick of The Athletic writes, but it’s Doncic who is seizing the moment and putting together an all-time great Mavs run. Kidd’s praise for Doncic thus far is telling, since it was Kidd who helped the Mavericks win their first and only title thus far in 2011, knowing what it takes from an all-time great like Dirk Nowitzki to help his team ascend.

The IQ is extremely high,” Kidd said. “He can take and make any shot. He can pass like no other. LeBron [James] might be a little bit better defensively, and understand passing lanes (better). But when you talk about the stage — Ky [Irving], Luka, Dirk — the great ones aren’t scared. If you miss that shot, he’ll be like, ‘Look, my bad. You guys got me where we needed to go, and I needed to deliver.’ It’s pretty cool to watch.

We have more notes from the series:

  • The Mavericks and NBA world as a whole have come to expect clutch moments from Doncic, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon writes. “As you’ve seen, he loves that stage,” Kidd said. “He doesn’t run from it. He made a big shot. … Luka is special. He loves those type of moments.” Game 2’s three-pointer is Doncic’s second career winning three-pointer in the final five seconds of a playoff game, joining LeBron James, Damian Lillard, Reggie Miller and Robert Horry. He also joined Magic Johnson and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to record four triple-doubles in a five-game playoff stretch.
  • Kyrie Irving continues to be supportive of Doncic amid the team’s playoff run and he reiterated his enthusiasm for the Slovenian superstar after Game 2. “I’m amazed,” Irving said (Twitter link via HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto). “I don’t use that word lightly either… I think he’s answered a lot of calls. When Luka first came into the league, there were a lot of questions on what he was going to turn out to be. I know a few people are eating their words. Watching him ascend into becoming an all-time great is amazing and I don’t take it for granted because I played with one of the greatest of all time, arguably the greatest of all time… I want to be supportive and continue to be an all-time great next to him, continue to show him the ropes, and let him continue to fly.
  • Doncic’s three was rightfully the talk of the town, but the Mavericks had another miracle shot that helped them win Game 2, Eddie Sefko of writes. In the middle of erasing an 18-point deficit, Daniel Gafford blocked a three-point try before leaking out and getting down the court, receiving a pass from Doncic, absorbing contact from Jaden McDaniels, and flipping up a shot that put Dallas ahead 96-94. That play is emblematic of the impressive play from Dallas’s center rotation that also includes rookie Dereck Lively II. The two players accounted for 30 points. “We feed off each other’s energy,” Gafford said. “Whenever I’m coming out of the game, I tell him to be a monster. And he does the same thing with me.”
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