Too much Doncic as Pistons and Mavs put on a show in Mexico City
Andrew D. Bernstein (NBAE/Getty)
MEXICO CITY – Luka Doncic began the night by mesmerizing a sellout crowd with his fluency in Spanish, welcoming them to the NBA’s traveling extravaganza, and ended it by enchanting them with a more universal language understood by all but spoken by few.
Doncic put on an MVP-worthy performance, setting an NBA scoring record for games held south of the border with 41 points while also recording the first Mexican triple-double with 12 rebounds and 11 assists.
“Doncic was spectacular,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said.
“We were trying to get the ball out of Doncic’s hands, which is very difficult to do,” Dwane Casey said after the Pistons’ 122-111 loss to the Mavericks, who improved to 17-7 behind their 20-year-old star. “He sees the whole floor. I thought he picked us apart.”
Doncic’s impact on the game was felt equally whether he was in or out of the Dallas lineup. After the first half ended with the teams swapping 14-0 runs – the Pistons’ came first, giving them a seven-point lead – Dallas carried the momentum of its closing run over to the third quarter. By the time Doncic went to the bench with 2:41 left in the quarter, the Mavericks had expanded their seven-point halftime edge to 24. By the time the quarter ended, the Pistons had shaved 14 points off of their deficit against the Doncic-less Mavs lineup.
Much of that was made up by Derrick Rose, who scored 14 of his 19 points in the third quarter after entering with eight minutes to play. But Rose was one of the few Pistons stars who played up to par.
Andre Drummond kept them close with a brilliant first half: 20 points, nine rebounds on 9 of 11 shooting. But Blake Griffin and Luke Kennard never got rolling, Griffin finishing with 10 points and Kennard eight.
“We had an off shooting night,” Casey said. “We’re going to take those shots – we’re a 3-point shooting team. Blake was 3 for 16. Luke was 3 for 13. That’s the guts of our 3-point shooting.”
The Mexican crowd whooped and hollered through a wildly entertaining first half in which the Mavs launched 26 triples and the Pistons threw down five dunks, three from Christian Wood off of the bench.
“Playing out here was incredible,” Drummond said after his 23-point, 15-rebound night. “The atmosphere was outstanding. Hanging out with the Special Olympics kids (at Wednesday’s NBA Cares event) touched home for me, being a global ambassador for them. It was like every play was a playoff atmosphere, chanting and yelling. I loved playing here and I’d love to come back.”
Drummond almost didn’t get to experience it other than as a spectator. After suffering an allergic reaction to avocado that caused inflammation around his eyes and prevented him from wearing his contact lenses, the condition settled down enough for him to suit up and play.
“It was scary,” he said. “I couldn’t really see out of my left eye for 48 hours. Sat out both practices. Medical staff did an amazing job to get me ready for tonight and I played to the best of my ability.”
Though the Mavericks are a wildly popular team in basketball-crazed Mexico – in part due to proximity and perhaps even more due to the tenure of national star Eduardo Najera with Dallas – there were plenty of Pistons fans in the building, as well. Griffin drew loud applause when he was introduced, but the most popular Pistons player was Derrick Rose, who heard “M-V-P!” chants before and during the game.
“I thought the crowd was tremendous,” Carlisle said. “The crowd was rooting for both teams, which was great to see. It was great sportsmanship. This is our second time in Mexico City. We enjoyed it just as much as the first time and had a great experience here.”
It was an experience enhanced, no doubt, by being the coach who could not just admire but enjoy Doncic’s brilliance. Dallas treaded water with Doncic on the bench to start the fourth quarter – the Pistons got it to nine at one point, but no closer – and then back-to-back possessions that resulted in triples from Seth Curry and Jalen Brunson closed the door on a Pistons comeback.
Curry came off the Dallas bench to match Doncic’s 23 first-half points and finished with 30.
“Curry getting 30 – that was something that hurt us,” Casey said. “You know how good Doncic is. You know how good (Kristaps) Porzingis (20 points, eight rebounds) is. But when Curry goes for 30, that broke our back.”