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, Staff Writer
Afterward, Luka Doncic and Steph Curry briefly met near midcourt, the 19-year-old rookie sensation perhaps seeking a morsel of advice from the 30-year-old, two-time NBA Most Valuable Player.
It was Curry’s two-time reigning NBA champion Warriors, after all, who pulled out a 119-114 victory over Doncic’s Mavericks on Sunday night at American Airlines Center.
It was Curry, after all, who outscored Doncic 48-26, including 13-3 in the fourth quarter and 10-1 in the final 4:14. Curry, however, said his message to Doncic was, “I don’t have to tell you anything. Just keep doing what you’re doing.”
It’s hardly the first time in which a big night by Doncic wasn’t quite good enough for the Mavericks (20-23) to pull out a victory. And surely it was little surprise to 20,340 fans that the Warriors (29-14) outexecuted Dallas late, or for the Mavericks to miss their last eight shots, four of them by Doncic.
And still, Dallas was within 117-114 after a 28-foot 3-pointer by Curry with 42 seconds left. But with 5.8 seconds left, Harrison Barnes dribbled off his foot out of bounds, under pressure from Kevin Durant.
“It was just a bad play,” said Barnes, who had 22 points against his former team. “In that situation we’ve got to get a shot up. … I’ve got to be better. I’ve got to get a shot up.”
It was a frustrating string of could’ves-should’ves for the Mavericks, who led 113-108 with 3:51 left and could have beaten Golden State for the second time in three meetings.
Is there any solace for the Mavericks that all three meetings have been decided by five points or fewer? Is this an ample sample size that Dallas could at least produce an entertaining first-round playoff series against the Warriors, should it make an admittedly unlikely climb in the standings?
“I think this group, we’ve shown a resilience that we can compete against anybody on any given night,” Barnes said. “It’s just a matter of being consistent. Obviously tonight is a tough one, but we feel confident that we can play against anyone in this league.”
Even before Doncic produced his fourth straight game of 26 or more points, a stretch in which he’s averaged 28.0 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists, Warriors coach Steve Kerr was impressed enough to tell The New York Times: “I think he’s already an All-Star.”
When asked Sunday by The News to elaborate on that comment, Kerr slightly amended his statement.
“Yeah, I haven’t really done the math,” he said with a smile. “I haven’t gone line by line. I probably threw that out there without truly doing my homework.
“I do have a vote for reserves. I think what I meant to say is he sure looks like an All-Star. Whether he makes it or not, he’s an All-Star. Certain guys just stand out. You see what they do, you see what they mean to the game. If he doesn’t make it this year, he’s going to make it soon enough.”
All-Stars usually can be relied upon to carry their team offensively late in game, and Doncic, despite his age, had done that before Sunday.
According to NBA clutch statistics, games in which the Mavericks have led or trailed by five or fewer points in the last five minutes, Doncic had made 24 of 42 field goal attempts, for 57 percent.
“I love that,” he said after Sunday’s loss, of taking late shots. “Today wasn’t a good day to hit those shots, but I’m not going to hesitate when I take those shots.
“But we have so many good players that anybody can take a shot. We’ve just got to get better shots. Especially me.”
From the Warriors’ perspective, every early sign is that Doncic over the course of his career will make plenty of big late shots.
“He’s unbelievable,” Curry said. “You can tell he is experienced in terms of playing high-level basketball. He is a guy that is always at his own pace.
“I’m sure he heard all the doubters and the people talking about his game who really didn’t know much about him. He’s made himself known, for sure, so it’s fun to watch just in terms of the future of the league, talented guys all across the board, and he’s one of them.”
Doncic and the Mavericks got an eyeful of what Curry can and has done throughout his career.
“He does things that you can’t guard,” Doncic said, shaking his head. “It’s nuts what he does.”