ATLANTA — Perhaps we should have predicted an inferno was coming from Luka Dončić after the week he had.
On Monday, Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said the team lost its focus due to officiating in a loss to the Boston Celtics. Two days later, Dallas lost again to the Phoenix Suns, a loss in which Dončić received a technical foul for arguing with officials and many more headlines for a third-quarter incident where he asked for a fan to be ejected. On Thursday’s episode of TNT’s “Inside the NBA,” Dončić admitted fault for the incident, saying, “I probably should not have done that.” It was not unlike his many prior comments where he admitted his constant complaints to officials don’t help.
But these are the critiques of a generational talent, one whose accomplishments began when he was a teenager and have continued with every year he’s spent on the basketball court ever since. These are questions we have for Dončić’s legacy and his ability to expand it, not for his prowess on the court. Because that is known.
And whenever it’s challenged, he does something like he did Friday.
Dončić’s scored 73 points to lead the Mavericks to a 148-143 over the Atlanta Hawks. He not only set a career high and franchise record, but it was the most points scored by a single NBA player since the late Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game on Jan. 22, 2006.
Luke Doncic: 73 points in Mavericks win in Atlanta – just the fourth player in NBA history to reach that plateau along with Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant and David Thompson.
Tenth player in NBA history to score 70 or more; four have come in the last year.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 27, 2024
This Dončić performance began immediately: He scored the Mavericks’ first two points with a driving layup, then 16 more while missing just three shots in the first quarter. By halftime, he had 41, tied for the third-highest first half since the 1996-97 season and tied for the 10th-highest half in general in that same time period.
Dončić was the last player out of Dallas’ locker room at halftime, starting slowly and then sprinting out onto the court, past his coaches who were walking with him and, soon, into the history books.
“Can we talk about it?! Can we talk about it?!” teammate Kyrie Irving hollered gleefully at Dončić as he walked off the court into the tunnels that led to the visiting locker room after the game. “You don’t just get to score 73 and 10 and not talk about it! I need a little more swag, bro!”
As Dončić made it to the locker room, his waiting teammates mobbed him before he even made it into the room.
This story will be updated.
(Photo: Todd Kirkland / Getty Images)