With the final score of 107-104, the Dallas Mavericks game against the Western Conference finalists, the Houston Rockets on Saturday was one worth re-visiting In the fourth quarter, the Rockets were leading 100-92 with only 2:49 remaining, the Mavericks seemed poised for another loss this season. However, the Slovenian rookie caught fire starting with an assist from a double-teamed Wesley Matthews for an open corner 3. After a Houston Rockets failed possession, the ball found its way to the young superstar’s hands, who found confidence in himself late in the game. Doncic dribbled at the top of the key with Deandre Jordan setting the screen to switch the on-ball defender from PJ Tucker to Clint Capela. Seizing up Capela, Doncic buried a step-back three in the face of one of the top five defensive players in the NBA this past season.
Feeling the pressure of the Mavericks’ surge, the Rockets needed to find a way to score. Chris Paul answered the call by stepping to the foul line for a pair of free throws. As an 86.7% career free-throw shooter, surely Paul would be able to put a pause on Doncic’s efforts in closing the gap. However, Paul missed the pair of free throws, turning the ball over to the Dallas Mavericks. With Luka Doncic handling the Mavericks possession, the determined rookie dove headfirst into the Rockets’ defense. Bodying PJ Tucker, Doncic created space for himself, finding the control to let go of a floater in the face of a leaping Capela. Down it goes with the home crowd going wild as the young rookie continues to torch the Rockets.
The Rockets desperately needed to stop a Doncic-led run by the Mavericks. Dribbling out the shot clock, as per usual, Harden pulls up for a three that falls short of the rim, thus, giving possession to the Mavericks. Again, Doncic has possession of the ball and asks for a switch to Capela. Delivering an in-between the legs step-back dribble move, Doncic gives the Mavericks a much-needed 3-point lead over the Rockets with the crowd praising his fourth-quarter performance.
After Doncic’s run, Harden scores in the lane, but another Mavs rookie, Jalen Brunson, scores with a backdoor cut putting the Mavericks ahead with 24 seconds to go in the quarter. The rest of the game plays itself out and ends with the Mavericks’ rookies sealing the game at 107-104. Luka Doncic completely turned the tide of the game on his own, showing prowess beyond his years and cementing his bid for the NBA rookie of the year award.