In the second quarter of Monday’s eventual win at Orlando, Dallas Mavericks star guard Luka Doncic didn’t exactly go by the book.
Doncic drove toward the basket and elevated for a layup. But there was nowhere to go, as the Magic’s defense collapsed around him.
But with all five defenders within a couple feet of him, Doncic changed course mid-air, flipping a pass to Maxi Kleber at the top of the key for a wide-open 3-pointer.
Entering Wednesday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Dallas, Doncic is playing the best basketball of his career and still, in his third year in the league, leaving Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle shaking his head.
“You’re constantly talking to players about not jumping in the air and trying to make decisions,” Carlisle said. “This guy defies a lot of logic when it comes to conventional coaching theories, and that’s why we give him the ball and let him go.
“He just does some amazing things. … It’s just great stuff.”
Against Orlando, Doncic had 33 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, narrowly missing what would’ve been his eighth triple-double of the season.
Since the Mavericks started 8-13, including a six-game losing streak that began in late January, Dallas has won nine of its last 12 games.
The Mavericks are 8-2 in their last 10 and Doncic is a big reason why. During that stretch, he’s averaging 31.7 points, 8.0 assists and 7.6 rebounds.
His shooting percentages have also risen dramatically. Over the first 22 games, Doncic was shooting 46.1 percent from the floor and 29.0 percent from behind the arc. In the last 10, Doncic is shooting 51.9 percent from the field and 46.5 percent on 3-pointers.
In two games against the Thunder last year, Doncic averaged 32 points, 10.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists.
Wednesday’s meeting will be the first of three between the teams this season — all in March.
The Thunder haven’t played since Saturday, their longest scheduled break between games so far this season.
Oklahoma City had a three-day stretch without a game in mid-January, but that came after its scheduled meeting with Philadelphia was postponed the day of the game.
“It’s really a trap game on just about every level,” Carlisle said. “Oklahoma’s been playing really good basketball all year long. They’ve played best against the better teams and the teams that are playing well, and they’re sitting on three days’ rest.”
The Thunder have won three of their last five but are coming off a 126-96 loss to Denver.
The Thunder will be without Hamidou Diallo for the third consecutive game. Diallo will sit through the All-Star break with right groin soreness.
“There’s a compounding effect to the condensed schedule,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “If a guy is going out there at 80 percent, it’s not like it’s gonna go up from there with all these games.
“We just think it would be a little hasty to try to put him back out there without the benefit of the break.”
Oklahoma City has one more game before the break after Wednesday’s game. The Mavericks end their first-half schedule Wednesday.
For Dallas, Willie Cauley-Stein suffered a sprained left thumb early in Monday’s win in Orlando and played less than four minutes. Cauley-Stein’s status for Wednesday’s game is unclear.
–Field Level Media