COLOGNE, Germany — Welcome to EuroBasket, Double-Mad Luka Doncic.
The most determined, unstoppable, victory-willing version of the Mavericks’ 23-year-old superstar reappeared in Lanxess Arena on Tuesday in Slovenia’s 88-80 win over undefeated host Germany.
He tallied 36 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in his most aggressive performance since Dallas’ conference finals playoff run last spring.
No doubt the sting of two national team losses in the last nine days — the same number of defeats Slovenia suffered in Doncic’s first four years with the senior squad altogether — festered in his mind throughout Monday’s day off.
With a peeved mindset and desire to get to the paint at full bore, Doncic did it all his way to propel Slovenia one win (Wednesday vs. Olympic nemesis France) or Germany loss (Wednesday vs. Hungary) from earning the uber-deep and competitive Group B’s No. 1 seed in the knockout rounds.
In the last nine days, Germany committed two of the most egregious sins for a Luka Doncic opponent.
They beat Slovenia by 19 points on Aug. 28 in just the third loss of Doncic’s five-year tenure with the national team. And, to no fault of their own, Germany then faced a peeved Doncic two nights after Slovenia suffered a major EuroBasket upset Sunday against Bosnia and Herzegovina
Cue Double-Mad Doncic.
After sharing a starting backcourt with co-point guard Aleksej Nikolic, who initiated most offensive possessions early in this tournament, Doncic took over primary ball-handling duties.
He dribbled up the court and shouted out plays — and at officials.
He lowered his shoulders into Germany’s bigs and spun around them for layups for a far more efficient outing than his 0-for-8 3-point shooting night Sunday against Bosnia.
He crossed up and befuddled defenders with stutter steps, dribble hesitations and crafty shifts in the lane, flexing, smiling and nodding when he prevailed.
He scored a layup over his head in the first half, falling to his back and pumping his fists at finally drawing an and-1 whistle, and hit a deep stepback 3 with about four minutes remaining to extend Slovenia’s lead to double digits.
German point guard and NBA free agent Dennis Schroder turned in another steady performance: 17 points and 10 assists, perhaps knowing the Mavericks are considering signing another ball handler to their final open roster spot and general manager Nico Harrison, coach Jason Kidd and most members of the Mavericks staff are sure to watch tape of the game, if not also live, while tracking Doncic back in Dallas.
But with a big late block on the undersized point guard, Doncic proved not even a potential future teammate was immune to his bully-ball approach with a bounceback victory on the line.