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Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic on yet another improbable game-winning shot — ‘Kind of lucky’

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Luka Doncic doesn’t recall getting a glimpse of the rim before he let the shot go. He was off balance, stumbling as he split a pair of Memphis Grizzlies defenders after catching the inbounds pass on the left wing with 1.8 seconds remaining, and released the runner from inches behind the 3-point line.

But Doncic saw it swish, his momentum taking him into the lane as the ball splashed through the net, giving the Dallas Mavericks a stunningly improbable 114-113 win Wednesday at FedExForum.

“I was really surprised when it went in,” said Doncic, who celebrated the game-winner he called “kind of lucky” by calmly walking to the baseline before raising his hands in triumph and being mobbed by his Mavericks teammates. “Those are the best feelings ever.”

Those kind of moments have quickly become part of the 22-year-old superstar’s lore.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, this was the fourth game-tying or go-ahead 3-pointer in the final five seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime in Doncic’s career, including the playoffs, surpassing the Denver NuggetsJamal Murray for the most such shots since Doncic entered the league in 2018-19.

Doncic, whose step-back 3 at the buzzer won Game 4 of the Mavs’ first-round playoff series over the LA Clippers last year, joins the Portland Trail BlazersDamian Lillard and the Utah Jazz‘s Bojan Bogdanovic as the only players in the NBA with multiple game-winning buzzer-beaters over the last three seasons. (The game-winning 3 Doncic hit to beat the Boston Celtics on Feb. 23 doesn’t qualify because there was a tenth of a second remaining on the clock.)

“Sometimes you’re going to make it, but sometimes you’re going to miss it, too,” said Doncic, who is 10-of-25 on potential tying or go-ahead shots in the final 30 seconds of a game in his career, a 40% success rate that compares favorably to career totals of the league’s most prolific clutch stars such as LeBron James (57-of-178, 32%), Kevin Durant (43-of-143, 30%) and Lillard (37-of-106, 35%).

“You’ve got to take that, too. I think that’s the most important part. If my team trusts me in that moment, I’ll keep working on it.”

It took a minor miracle for Doncic, who 25 of his 29 points in the second half, to even have a chance to deliver a victory for Dallas. After Doncic missed a free throw with 3.2 seconds remaining, Grizzlies shooting guard Grayson Allen grabbed the rebound and was fouled a second later, with the Mavs trailing by two points.

Allen, who entered the game as a 90.6% free throw shooter, could have sealed the victory by making both shots. But he missed both, setting the stage for Doncic to deliver a miracle.

“In those situations, you pull off a win in a game like that once in a blue moon,” said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, whose team improved to 30-24, a game behind the Portland Trail Blazers for sixth place in the Western Conference. “It just doesn’t happen very often. Luka made one of the signature, special shots that you’re going to see for a long time.

“This is one of those joyous nights where we escaped. We had Houdini. He got us out of here alive.”

However, Carlisle said he “expects” Doncic to make that kind of shot, as did the other Mavs available during the postgame media availability. Their confidence doesn’t just come from Doncic’s track record during games. They’ve seen him hit countless high-degree-of-difficulty shots during practices and shootarounds, many just when he’s messing around.

For example, after warming up a couple of hours before Monday’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, Doncic juggled the ball soccer style until he was a few feet in front of the tunnel at the corner of the American Airlines Center. He grabbed the ball with his hands and shot it, swishing it from roughly 40 feet away — and behind the backboard — a trick shot that went viral after being caught by ESPN’s cameras.

So a stumbling 3-pointer off one foot wasn’t a shock, even with a game against the eighth-place Grizzlies at stake.

“Watch this. That’s what I’m thinking,” Mavs center Dwight Powell said. “I have full faith that it’s at least going to have a chance, but I’m putting my money on it going in.”

Carlisle said he’s learned not to bet against Doncic in any shot-making circumstances, cracking that he’s “lost thousands of dollars” to Doncic off of wagers on half-court shots.

“One time in Mexico City [his] second year I paid him off in pesos because I was so pissed about it,” Carlisle said, laughing. “I don’t bet with him anymore, because I’ve seen him do everything. I’ve seen him call swishes from half court. I’ve seen him kick the ball in from 40 feet. Any time we walk into practice and he’s sitting on a table getting stretched out behind the basket and he says, ‘Hey Coach, if I make a shot, is practice over?’ I always look at him like, ‘Forget it, no way,’ because he’s going to make the shot. He’s going to make the shot some way.

“He’s just a very, very special and unique guy when it comes to these kinds of things. He sees angles and possibilities and has a belief system that very few of us can fathom. Pretty amazing stuff.”

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Sacramento Kings Rookie of the Year candidate Tyrese Haliburton exits game early with left knee injury

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DALLAS — Sacramento Kings rookie guard Tyrese Haliburton suffered a left knee injury that forced him to exit Sunday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks in the third quarter.

Haliburton will have an MRI on Monday morning, but there’s initial optimism he might have avoided a serious injury, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Haliburton, a Rookie of the Year candidate, appeared to hyperextend his left leg while making a behind-the-back move while dribbling the ball up the court. He clipped feet with Dallas guard Josh Richardson, causing Haliburton to land awkwardly on his next step.

Haliburton lost the ball because of the injury, painfully hobbling a couple of steps on his right leg before falling face first near the scorer’s table. He was eventually helped to his feet and limped to the locker room for further evaluation before being ruled out for the rest of the game minutes later.

Haliburton, the No. 12 pick in the 2020 NBA draft, has averaged 13.0 points and 5.3 assists during his rookie year, quickly becoming considered a franchise cornerstone for the Kings alongside point guard De’Aaron Fox.

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Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks come out on top as duel with Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets goes down to wire

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In an epic showdown among some of the league’s most talented stars, Giannis Antetokounmpo dropped 49 points to outduel Kevin Durant‘s 42 points and lift the Bucks to a 117-114 victory over the Nets on Sunday. The game — which came down to the final seconds — was one that many considered to be a potential Eastern Conference finals preview.

“You want to be a part of games like this,” Antetokounmpo said afterward. “Growing up, you want to play against the best, and coming down to the wire, going back and forth, that’s what you always dreamed about.”

Durant shot 16-of-33 from the field and had 10 rebounds, two assists and a steal to go along with his dominant scoring. Antetokounmpo shot 21-for-36 from the field — including 4-of-8 from 3.

The Nets and Bucks alternated leads well into the fourth quarter. The Bucks had a three-point lead with just 3.6 seconds remaining when Durant missed a 28-foot shot that would have tied the game.

“You want to gauge yourself against the best defender, best team defense, best coaching,” Durant said. “That’s the only way you’ll get better as a player. So I get excited and I relish these opportunities, and we do as a team.”

Antetokounmpo, the reigning defensive player of the year, has grown into one of the NBA’s most formidable defenders. It wasn’t that long ago, however, that he was in Greece watching Durant from afar. Antetokounmpo said he grew up studying Durant’s game and remembers watching him play in the Western Conference finals in 2011 when Antetokounmpo was a teenager and Durant was with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“What he does is unbelievable,” Antetokounmpo said Sunday night. “Being 6-11, being able to shoot over everybody. The way he handles the ball and gets to his spot is unbelievable — the best I’ve seen in my life. I look up to him, I’m not gonna lie.”

Antetokounmpo added that he has worked to emulate parts of Durant’s game, but that he prefers to be a facilitator and a playmaker. And despite both All Stars’ dominant scoring nights, Antetokounmpo insisted that he wasn’t trying to go shot for shot with Durant.

“Nobody in this world can go back and forth with KD,” Antetokounmpo said. “He’s been one of the greatest scorers to ever play this game. I was just trying to do my job, get to my spots and execute and help my team win.”

With the loss, Brooklyn is now tied with Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference, pending the result of the 76ers‘ game Sunday night in San Antonio against the Spurs. More importantly, however, the Sixers are up a game in the loss column — and hold the tie breaker in the season series.

With the win, Milwaukee moved up within 2.5 games of Brooklyn for second in the East ahead of their rematch on Tuesday in Fiserv Forum.

“It’s one of those games you enjoy playing in,” Durant said. “And hopefully, it’s a better one for us next game.”

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LA Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard says he has been playing through foot injury

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Kawhi Leonard said there is “nothing significant” with his foot injury and that he has been playing with it for some time.

In his first game back after missing the previous five games due to right foot soreness, Leonard had 16 points, six assists and five rebounds in 30 minutes in the LA Clippers‘ 110-104 loss to the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center.

“I’m feeling good,” Leonard said in his first comments since April 9. “We took the proper steps to get me right, to make sure nothing significant is wrong with me … so hopefully we can just keep moving up from here.”

When asked if he will have to play through this foot injury for the remainder of the season, Leonard said the issue is not something that just developed after the last time he played against Minnesota on April 18.

“Yeah, I mean, I’ve been doing it,” Leonard said. “It’s not something that just occurred after the last game. But I’ll be all right. I’ve been through situations like this before.”

The Denver Nuggets spoiled the All-Star’s return by overtaking the Clippers for third in the Western Conference. The Nuggets beat the Clippers for a second time this season and took the season series and tiebreaker between the two teams.

For the Clippers, though, Leonard’s return was more important. Leonard had missed nine of the Clippers’ previous 10 games.

“It was great to share the floor again with him,” Clippers All-Star guard Paul George said. “He’s gonna find his rhythm. You know, I thought he looked good tonight.”

George added: “Hopefully we can continue to keep him healthy. But he’s going to be better and better. That’s just who Kawhi is.”

With seven games remaining in the season, the Clippers want to develop as much chemistry as they can with their starters on the floor together. Serge Ibaka, who was the starting center when healthy, missed his 25th consecutive game because of a back injury.

Starting point guard Patrick Beverley missed his 12th straight game Saturday because of a fractured hand. Beverley has played in only two of the past 26 games due to injuries, but Clippers coach Ty Lue said Beverly could return in the next few games if he continues to progress.

Leonard said he traveled with the team on its recent road trip to help develop chemistry, something LA was missing when it blew a 3-1 series lead and lost in the second round to Denver last postseason.

“Just making sure the team sees my face,” Leonard said of staying with the team on the road while he was out. “Just wanted to still be in that motion, be in that rhythm and most importantly letting guys know I’m here and, you know, just let them hear my voice and see my face.”

Asked if the team has enough time to gel before the postseason, Leonard said, “You know, I’m back, [we’re] just going to have to do it with what we have. We won games before, so we just got to keep this rolling and see the adjustments and the players [who] are going to play in certain situations to help us win games.”

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