(Apologies if the video quality isn’t the greatest today. It’s a bit out of my control I’m afraid… Still trying to figure out the kinks of this whole process, definitely getting there but the video quality just took a step back this week.)
After a strong outing against Olimpia Milan, Real Madrid and Luka Dončić head on the road to take on Zalgiris Kaunas in Lithuania on October 26th. Madrid took their winning streak to four games in EuroLeague 17-18 (ninth in all competitions) as they won convincingly 87-66 against Kaunas.
For Luka Dončić, it was another strong game: 28 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field, 4-of-6 from three, 6-of-6 from the line, nine rebounds, four assists, three turnovers and a PIR rating of 35 in 27 minutes.
Let’s break it down:
We’ll start with the three-point shooting again — 4-of-6 for Dončić behind the arc, making it another strong performance from the outside.
Unlike the last game against Milan where Dončić’s three-point work was done by the end of the first quarter, it was only in the third quarter when Dončić got on the board from three-point range.
Off of a miss, Dončić grabs the rebound and, as he likes to do, pushes in transition. He gets to the three-point line and the Kaunas defense doesn’t extend their defense as closely as they probably should. Dončić recognises the space that is given to him, rises and drains the three-pointer to put Madrid up by 14 points in the third quarter:
It wasn’t as if the Kaunas defense completely sagged off of Dončić here: it was just an enough amount of space that Dončić needed to pull up and hit the shot.
Here, the rare play where Dončić is planted off-ball and in the corner on the weak-side. Fabien Causeur and Gustavo Ayon work the pick-and-roll, Causeur finds Ayon, who takes a dribble inside and skips it over to Dončić in the corner for the corner three (after the friendly bounce):
We don’t normally see Dončić planted in the corner like that — a nice catch-and-shoot opportunity there. Again, having a big who can see plays and then pass like Gustavo Ayon really helps.
Dončić hit a few late threes when the game was pretty much over.
Here, just the standard stuff from Dončić: a jab-step and then hits the contested three:
He just makes it look so easy sometimes…
And just to cap it all off, a three-pointer to beat the buzzer after a bit of a broken play:
You’re probably thinking that’s a bit of a punk move from Dončić but no, you’d be wrong. In EuroLeague, every point counts and you have to keep on playing until the end. Cumulative score differential is a tiebreaker in EuroLeague, so every point matters.
Here’s a screenshot of the EuroLeague standings as of Jan 22nd:
Every point matters.
That wraps up another good three-point shooting display from Dončić, now let’s move on to the transition game.
We saw Dončić hit a three in transition in this game, and the transition game was where Dončić found a lot of success in against Kaunas.
Before we get to some actual field goal makes, there was this one play in transition that was interesting. Off of a steal, Madrid push with Facundo Campazzo. If you look to the left of the screen, you’ll see Dončić purposely hang back as Kaunas get back on D and try to ensure an easy opportunity doesn’t emerge in transition. Dončić will now spring into action and into the picture — completely catching out the Kaunas defense — and receives the ball from Campazzo, but can’t hit the three:
A sneaky and clever play. Unfortunately, it didn’t result in a basket on this occasion.
From then on, Dončić wasn’t so subtle in transition…
Off of a Kaunas miss, the ball ends up in hands of Causeur. Dončić streaks his way up the court (thankfully, with his uniform still on) and the ball is delivered to him. Between himself and the basket is Paulius Jankunas. Dončić takes it inside and uses a nice little eurostep to get by him and then displays some nice hang-time as he floats the shot home:
A nice set of moves chained together by Dončić for that basket, further exhibiting his offensive repetoire.
I included the reaction Kaunas head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius here because watching him react on the sidelines throughout this game was just hilarious. Very firey. Fantastic stuff. …Could you tell he’s a former player?
After an errant pass is intercepted by Causeur, he quickly whips it to Dončić who is already streaking ahead. Dončić takes it strong all the way to the rim and draws the foul, leading to free throws:
Dončić would hit all six of his free throws in this game.
Off of a miss, Dončić looks for the ball, wanting to push the pace quickly and try to exploit the Kaunas transition D. Felipe Reyes gives it to him and away Dončić goes. He gets inside the three-point line and slams the brakes before pulling up and sinking the mid-range J:
With many NBA teams looking for quicker pacing these days, it helps that Dončić can make things happen in transition (though, faster pace doesn’t always necessarily mean transition offense). The transition game was certainly effective in this game, however…
We saw Dončić work in the post again in this game.
Here, Dončić inbounds the ball and wants it back almost immediately so he can back down Vasijile Micic. After getting close to the paint in the post, Dončić then spins to his left and hits his hook home off of the glass, despite being knocked off his spot a bit in the air:
That’s an appropriate reaction, really.
Next, the Kaunas defense don’t communicate and this allows Dončić to be free in the corner (without the ball). Kevin Pangos comes over to cover him and Dončić receives the ball on the wing and goes to work. To the credit of Pangos, he gets his hands in there and does well to knock it out of Dončić’s hands and the turnover is forced:
Immediately after this, Kaunas can’t score in transition and Madrid and Dončić come again, attempting to post-up Pangos. Dončić was extra determined to back him down (almost too determined, you could argue?) and he spins and hits the, kind of, wild leaner:
A little fortunate here, it wasn’t the greatest possession in the world but it went in…
And to finish off Dončić’s offensive work in this game, he comes off of a nice curl and scores with ease at the rim:
Beautiful hand-off by Ayon too. Again — and I can’t state this enough — having a guy who can pass like Ayon is huge for Dončić.
Things didn’t start too well for Dončić here.
The first possession he’s involved in — off of the knock-away from Ayon — the bounce-pass to try to find Causeur is a little too low for Causeur to handle and it leads to a turnover:
I could be being harsh here, this could be on Causeur, but I thought it was a tad too low. Dončić would get the bounce-pass right later on out of the pick-and-roll:
Too bad Reyes couldn’t convert the layup.
Again in transition, Dončić tries to make something happen but the Kaunas defense does a good job cutting him off from the rim this time. Dončić then goes to his post game and backs inside toward what would be the NBA restricted area (which, of course, doesn’t exist here but that general area). As he spins, he draws the attention of the second defender. In that split second, Dončić wraps a beautiful pass to Ayon, who scores the layup:
What a beautiful pass. Great recognition of the situation from the time of spinning to the time getting that pass to Ayon.
Similar to the last game against Milan, Kaunas tried to hedge some Dončić screens to extend a bit more defensive pressure on him. Again, he dealt with it well.
After a little bit dribbling beforehand, Dončić comes around the Ayon screen and Kaunas extend the defensive pressure to prevent Dončić turning the corner. As Brandon Davies tracks back to Ayon, Dončić fires an over-the-head pass to Ayon, who makes a very quick pass to Reyes for a layup that is goaltended:
Good pass from Dončić inside off of the hedge but, again, Ayon being able to make plays from the center spot really helps complete this play.
Kaunas did this again at the beginning of the second quarter only this time Dončić whips it to the corner where Jonas Maciulis hits the three.
Good to see Dončić remain calm in these kind of situations and, most of the time, makes the right pass.
Not a hedge this time from Kaunas, but Dončić finds himself in an almighty crowd coming off of a pick as he gets inside, adjusts mid-air to find the trailing Reyes for a layup:
That’s quite the crowd to draw and a nice pass to find the trailer.
Sometimes it doesn’t have to be so difficult.
After a pick-and-roll with Dino Radondic didn’t really open any doors, Dončić surveys his surroundings and makes the simple pass to the open Santi Yusta who hits the three:
A very easy assist…
Defensively, this was an interesting game for Dončić.
Just a few mental/fundamental/team defensive mistakes in this game, things like help defense. A few ‘ifs’ and ‘maybes’ here but you can decide…
Here, Kevin Pangos comes off a screen and gets downhill heading to the rim. Could Dončić have done something here as the help defender, maybe reach in or fully rotate?
Perhaps this is a better example in the second quarter, one where you might actually expect Dončić to rotate and help stop the drive:
Again, Pangos is the beneficiary of the lack of help defense as he gets to the foul line on this occasion.
In the fourth quarter — and maybe this one can slide a little more since the game is now a blowout — but maybe Dončić could slap a hand in there or something as the ball-handler goes past?
More defensive fundamentals: doesn’t contest the Axel Toupane shot:
These aren’t major issues that aren’t able to be fixed, so that’s the encouraging thing. Is it an effort thing? Yeah, you could make that argument. I’m not worried though.
In closing vs. Kaunas
Offensively, just another strong game. A bit of a quiet first half but really got going in the second quarter. Encouraging to see the three-point shot fall in this one again. Again, I’m all for Dončić going to work in the post, I love it, thought that second possession against Pangos wasn’t great even though he scored.
When it came to both scoring and passing, the transition game was huge and we saw Dončić take full advantage of the Kaunas transition defense. Again when it came to making decisions when the defensive extended the pressure off of pick-and-rolls, it was great to see Dončić not panic and make the right decisions/passing.
“…Doncic already played very good last year,” said Real Madrid head coach Pablo Laso. He is a great decision-maker and that helps him. I think tonight he had a great game because he was hot shooting. But sometimes he helps us in so many things.
Defensively, it was an OK game but those fundamentals were highlighted a bit. I don’t think it’s to do with defensive limitations just more so an effort/awareness thing to make those rotations. Again, not worried about it at all…
With a 35 PIR to go along with his big stat line, Dončić was named MVP for Round 4 of EuroLeague, which marked his second in consecutive rounds.