(Yes, that is their official name…)
After a big win against CSKA Moscow last time out, Round 3 of EuroLeague 2017/18 saw Real Madrid take on Olimpia Milan, again at home.
After a somewhat quiet game last time out against CSKA, Luka Dončić bounced back in a big way: 27 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field, 2-of-5 from three, 11-of-12 from the free throw line, eight rebounds, five assists, three steals, one turnover and a PIR rating of 41 (!!) in 28 minutes.
It was a bit of an off-game for Dončić last time out when it came to scoring the ball, and scoring the ball from the field: just 2-of-8 from the field with many of them being three-pointers.
This was a much better game shooting the three for Dončić, so we’ll start there.
Dončić shot 2-of-5 from three (40%) in this game and his first basket of this game came from distance, in a way that should be familiar by now: with a step-back:
That is a thing of beauty… That step-back is going to be a problem in the NBA.
They say save the best for last, and Donćić’s last three-pointer of this game was sublime. And deep:
The FIBA three-point line is a little shorter than the NBA three-point line, but that is legitimate three-point range…
This was a three he didn’t make, but it’s Dončić — as he likes to do sometimes — grabbing a rebound, pushing the pace and seeing what comes of it:
Usually, I personally don’t like shots that come with, kind of, no offense being run but it’s worth a try every now and then (and a nice little stutter-step). And we know Dončić can make things happen in transition…
Off of a miss, Gustavo Ayon grabs the rebound and Dončić wants the ball so he can push. He gets it, does so and draws the foul and heads to the free throw line:
Dončić would get three free throws here as a technical foul was called after this play. Dončić shot a few more technical fouls shots than normal (a lot more) and this was part of the reason why he shot 12 free throws, but he did a good job using his pace to exploit the defense in transition.
Speaking of dipping into his pace, how about this for a move? The quick left-to-right cross and burst to shed his man, the beautiful use of fake to allow him to drift by him, the shot is blocked by the help defender but it bounces right back into the hands Dončić who uses the glass to score the easy layup:
I love fakes like that because it really makes the opposition look, almost, silly as they sail on by. They are risky though — Dončić was blocked and was lucky the ball found its way right back to him — but when they come off they’re great…
In fact, we actually saw this come back to bite Dončić as he tried it again in the fourth quarter, the defender being able to recover to block the shot and Dončić didn’t get so lucky with the bounce this time:
That crossover, though… We’ve already seen in this short time covering him that it can be lethal…
Here, Dončić just toys with Vladimir Micov as he dribbles, steps back and then crosses over Micov before having a floater blocked by Marco Cusin:
Talk about being on skates… That is just nasty from Dončić. And that’s just a great block by Cusin, he goes way upstairs to reach that one. Great plays by both players there.
Some other nice things from Dončić offensively in this game (and we’ll fly through these):
As the first half ticks to a close, Dončić is trapped after his teammate Facundo Campazzo flashes by Dončić (Campazzo’s man then comes to extend pressure on him) putting Dončić in a difficult position. He fires an awkward pass but it does reach Campazzo who takes the three. The shot misses, but Dončić sneaks in to claim the offensive rebound and gets the shot off before he hits the ground, aware of the clock and it beats the buzzer:
Great heads up play by Dončić: aware of the clock and getting himself back into the play and into a great position to claim the offensive rebounded after he was on his arse only a few seconds earlier.
Here, a nice curl coming off the screen leads to a layup plus the foul:
It’s a huge benefit to Dončić to have a big who can pass well like Gustavo Ayon can and hopefully the team that drafts him will have a center/big who can pass the ball well to make full use of Dončić’s game.
Here, a set play from Madrid as Dončić comes of the flex screen for an easy layup:
Again, it’s Ayon who’s making that pass. Good screen too. A beautiful set play from Madrid here.
There was really only one shot in this game from Dončić that, you can maybe say, wasn’t ideal:
It is a deep three with 13 seconds left on the clock — sometimes you’d prefer some offense to be run if a quality shot isn’t always on — but we saw him make a deeper shot than this earlier? I’ll let you decide on this one…
A little bit of Dončić in the post now, backing down Dairis Bertans here (yep, brother of San Antonio Spurs forward Davis Bertans), spinning and flipping the hook home for an ‘and-1’:
Keep working that post, young fella.
There wasn’t much to show from Dončić against CSKA — he didn’t handle the ball an awful lot to create chances — but there’s a lot more to show here against Milan.
We’ve mentioned how Dončić likes to sometimes push in transition and this can lead/has led to scoring opportunities, whether it was outright or at the free throw line. Well, he can do it to create baskets for others too.
Off of the miss, Dončić claims the rebound and he’s off to the races. As he meets the defense, he fires a pass over the defense to find the streaking Jeffrey Taylor for the layup and the foul:
A nice heads-up play there by Dončić to find the right pass/make the right play and get others involved.
Again off the miss, Dončić looks to push it. He gets his head up and sees the right play and makes it (a pass to Campazzo), and the end result is a dunk:
An unselfish play, the right play. Not anything massive by any means but just Dončić getting his head up and making the correct play instead of looking to score himself/take it to the rim.
Off of a steal this time, Dončić — knowing the tightness of the space in which he was operating from — produces a wonderful behind-the-back pass to find Campazzo, who goes between his legs to find Ayon for the highlight play:
I was left in awe watching this play, but mostly the behind-the-back pass from Dončić. Absolutely fantastic.
Another great play from Dončić, just a bit less flashy: the beautiful bounce-pass executed to perfection to a rolling Gustavo Ayon:
He just makes those around him better and puts them in positions to succeed, here’s another example where a drive and kick to the corner sets up a good three-point opportunity:
Perhaps lucky to escape without being called for an offensive foul but a good opportunity here that wasn’t converted on this occasion.
Milan did something defensively in this game that other teams in EuroLeague hadn’t tried up until this point: extending extensive pressure on Dončić in pick-and-rolls. They hedged a lot of picks and this forced Dončić to have to make decisions in awkward situations and he responded very well, for the most part.
In the first quarter, Milan extend the defense to Dončić with the hedge. Dončić fires a pass to Gustavo Ayon as the last line of Milan’s defense leaves Ayon underneath the basket to go to cover the three-point shooter, for some reason, leaving Ayon open for the open layup at the rim:
Here, Dončić finds the open shooter off of the double with a skip-pass to the weak-side wing:
Though Jonas Maciulis missed the three, Dončić did well to make what was probably the best possible pass that led to an opportunity.
Milan hedge again in the fourth quarter, only this time Dončić’s overhead pass is deflected into the backcourt but gets bailed out with a bad foul by Jordan Theodore, who earns a technical foul for his objections, leading Dončić back to the free throw line:
A lucky break for Dončić here. The pass he was attempting was sure to result in a turnover as Ayon had slipped behind his man as Dončić begun to pass. This was probably the best outcome for Dončić here, actually.
Now in crunch time, Milan, again, extend pressure onto Dončić. As he heads to the right-wing, he gets his head up and sees the open man in Fabien Casseur and finds him with an overhead pass. Casseur takes a dribble to his right and hits the contested three for a hugely important basket:
Another good decision out of the defensive pressure by Dončić at an important time in the game.
We haven’t seen Dončić throw many lobs so fat but he had a go at a few in this game but the play wasn’t able to completed on both occasions.
Here, Dončič’s alley-oop to Ayon is just a tad long. Ayon gets his fingers on it but can’t guide it home:
In the third quarter, Dončić throws a better pass this time but Ayon is still unable to finish the play:
Apart from the post defense, it was a pretty solid outing last time for Dončić defensively and it was another solid outing this time vs. Milan.
Early on, Milan tried to get at Dončić down-low but Dončić does a good job staying vertical and the shot at the rim falls short:
Here, Dončić does a good job staying in front of his man and contesting the shot but it was a case of ‘good-D, better-O’:
That’s just a good shot, not much more Dončić could’ve done here.
Here, a decent contest on the help D by Dončić shows his awareness of a dangerous situation:
Let’s talk about post defense… It wasn’t as much of a factor in this game but it did come up a few times.
On a switch, Dončić is beaten inside and is, kind of, dunked on:
To be fair, he shouldn’t have been in this position to begin with after Jaycee Carroll just abandons ship and leaves Dončić to have to switch onto Arturas Gudaits…
But Dončić, encouragingly, did show some fight in the post and denied this entry:
Again, encouraging… A little bit of fight…
We’ve talked about before about Dončić possibly struggling against quicker guards, we saw another example of this here against Theodore:
As for the mental lapses Dončić can be prone to have, there was only one major one from this game, coming in the third quarter: he just allows the roll-man to get to the rim for the ‘and-1’ dunk:
In that situation he should probably switch onto the roll-man and at least put some pressure at the rim. This kind of stuff is easily workable, though.
In closing vs. Milan
Overall, much better offensive game from Dončić here. Better shot selection, better quality of shots, more efficient shooting, got to the rim more, got to the free throw line often (more so because of the many techs that flew around in this game) and found other ways to score whether it was nice set-plays from Madrid or sneaking in for rebounds.
A great offensive game for Dončić here.
A much better game when it came to assisting/making his teammates better. That’s what great players do: make everyone around them better, and I think Dončić does this very well. He should’ve had the ball in his hands more than he did in this game to make plays for others…
Defensively, again, very solid. Not elite but solid. Some good stuff help D wise, some good contests… Just solid, man.
A PIR rating of 41… That is bonkers. And, unsurprisingly, earned Dončić MVP of Round 3.
It is hard to believe that he’s just 18 years old… When you watch him in EuroLeague, you look at him as a professional, playing with other professionals more so than looking at him as an 18 year o.d. With the NCAA/college ball, you watch it and you know immediately that these guys are just kids. For me watching these, I have to remind myself that Dončić is just 18 as he tears EuroLeague apart, and that says an awful lot..