After a defeat to Khimki Moscow last time out, Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv made it two losses in a row for Real Madrid in Israel as they lost 90-83.
For Luka Dončić, it was another difficult outing shooting 5-of-14 from the field and 2-of-7 from three but did manage to score 19 points, shot 7-of-8 from the free throw line, grabbed six rebounds, dished out six assists, grabbed a steal and posted a PIR of 30 in a season-high 32 minutes.
A bit of a difficult game for Dončić offensively: 19 points but 5-of-14 shooting from the field and 2-of-7 from three — a lot of those three-point attempts coming in the fourth quarter.
Let’s start with the things that Dončić did well but looking at how he struggled.
Again, starting with three-point shooting, this wasn’t a bad way to begin the game: hitting the deep three-pointer:
That is legitimate NBA range, and we’ve seen already that this is in Dončić’s arsenal.
Coming off of a screen, Dončić goes to his right, rises and hits a big three-pointer in the fourth quarter:
Great screen by Felipe Reyes — it really helps when you make proper contact with your man on the screen as Reyes did here, and this freed up Dončić the space he needed to get this shot away.
Going away from the three-point shooting for now, a strong drive from Dončić and the large crowd in the paint doesn’t deter him as he makes this layup near the end of the first half:
Dončić got to the free throw line on eight occasions in this game, here’s how he drew three of them:
One more positive thing to look at was this possession:
Dončić receives the ball after the interior pass by Randolph, leaping over the shorter John DiBartolomeo and catching the ball. Dončić ball-fakes inside to shed the help defender but misses the point-blank layup and can’t get the tip to go:
Very nice fake, and that’s a made layup nine times out of 10… Just not this one…
Alright, now to look at why Dončić was only 5-of-14 shooting from the field…
In the last game I talked about how Dončić comes into these games with a target on his back and this game was probably the best showcase for that: he was swamped in this game by Tel Aviv’s defense.
There were so many examples of Tel Aviv really extending the defensive pressure and throwing bodies at Dončić — and some of them we’ll cover in the next section because it was part of the reason Dončić had six assists — but we’ll look at a few now.
Here, Dončić sees a lot of pressure off of the pick-and-roll and this prevents him turning the corner. With the shotclock winding down, Dončić then puts up a tough shot that doesn’t go down:
Near the end of the first quarter, Dončić again sees a lot of pressure coming off the pick-and-roll and left with not a lot of options or than to pass the ball to a teammate. Anthony Randolph can’t get a shot away and gives up to Dončić, who also can’t find a shot opportunity and passes it off to Campazzo with just over a second remaining on the shotclock, and Campazzo has to heave in desperation:
In the second half, this play takes way too long to develop and it leads to, again, a very aggressive hedge off of the screen and Dončić’s attempted pass inside is deflected. At this stage, the clock is low and Dončić tries to go one-on-one and it’s a very tough shot taken in the end:
You get the general idea (and we’ll look at how Dončić found some looks for his teammates following this type of pressure): it was a very tough going for Dončić. He gets defense’s best shot and their full attention, which is tough for an 18 year old to deal with. To score 19 points anyways was pretty impressive, all things considered.
A bit more passing/facilitating in this game from Dončić — six assists — and a lot of that had to do with him having to give the ball up because of the defensive pressure he saw/what the defensive pressure opened for others.
Here, Tel Aviv kind of ICE this action with Dončić and Randolph except it’s not executed perfectly as the person who’s supposed to be shading over to Randolph, Pierre Jackson, doesn’t quite fully get to him and comes off of him too quickly and the result is a three-pointer for Randolph:
Off of the screen, Tel Aviv hedge Dončić again and he’s put in a tough predicament. After picking up his dribble, Dončić finds Chasson Randle behind the three-point line, but Randle’s three is too long:
Better execution defensively this time by Tel Aviv: that’s who you want taking shots instead of Luka Dončić.
Again, Tel Aviv throw bodies at Dončić and he’s forced to make a decision. He makes the right pass to Randolph in the paint, but Randolph is quickly swarmed and he gives it up to Jaycee Carroll, who should probably pass it back out to Dončić but instead takes a tough shot:
The right pass to make from Dončić but really good execution defensively by Tel Aviv to prevent a basket here.
Moving on to other ways of facilitating without basically being forced to…
We saw Dončić pass out of the post recently and we saw more of it in this game.
Here, Dončić receives the entry pass on the block, turns and fires a very complicated pass to the weak-side corner to Taylor, who collects the pass and misses the three:
A bit of a tough pass to handle but the vision here is top notch — difficult pass to make and it did ultimately lead to a good opportunity.
Again in the post, Dončić backs down and passes to the weak-side, to Campazzo, who takes a dribble, passes it off and Reyes scores inside:
Moving on, here was a very nice bit of vision from Dončić, knowing exactly what he’s going to do with it as soon as he gets it by making this interior pass to Randolph who scores inside:
Great awareness, seeing the play unfold before he makes the pass.
After a miss, Dončić grabs the rebound, heads up the floor, turns on the jets, whips out a beautiful behind-the-back move before whizzing the ball to Taylor in the corner. Taylor misses the three but Dončić is on hand to grab the offensive rebound and draws the foul, leading to free throws:
Probably the highlight of Dončić’s game, to be fair. Could he have attempted the layup himself? Probably, but he saw what he thought was a better opportunity in the corner in Taylor…
Normally, we see Dončić get his head down in transition to try to make something happen: whether it’s for himself or for others.
Here, we see Dončić take his time to survey the scene before making the right pass to Campazzo for an open three-point opportunity which misses:
Nice, patient play by Dončić here: didn’t rush it and made the right play. Shame Campazzo couldn’t make the shot on this occasion.
Off of a Tel Aviv miss, Dončić quickly outlets to Randolph, who is at the other end of the court. This basket didn’t count as Dončić was barreled into before the basket and shot free throws instead:
Mainly to show off the outlet pass, really…
And lastly, a nice interior bounce-pass after the pick-and-roll to find Reyes, who scores using glass:
Few things to talk about as always here, some good stuff again from Dončić.
On this possession, Dončić does a good job to get back in front of his man after a screen separates him and then gets a contest up on the shot that still falls:
Good defense but just better offense here… Good to see Dončić fight to get back in the play…
Some good vertical defense here from Dončić as he stays in front of DeShaun Thomas off of the dribble and the shot from Thomas is off:
You can also see Dončić’s versatility and ability to switch defensively, and that definitely helps.
Here we see a little more switching and more solid awareness. After a pick-and-roll, Dončić steps into the gap and into the path of the ball-handler before falling back and switching underneath the basket:
A score here for Thomas in the end but it had nothing really to do with Dončić…
And Dončić did something similar again defensively a few possessions later: switches on the pick-and-roll and prevents the penetration inside by Michael Roll, who is forced to pass to the perimeter and that perimeter shot is off:
This has probably been the game we’ve seen the most switching from Dončić defensively.
There were a few concerns from this game, however…
DeShaun Thomas caused a number of issues for Dončić in this game, off of the dribble for one:
In the post:
And beaten to the spot on the right block, where he can catch, spin and score:
Yeaaah… DeShaun Thomas was definitely a problem for Dončić in this game.
And, look, it bears repeating that these are grown ass men Dončić has to face: their bodies are more developed for the professional game at age 25, 26 etc… Dončić is only 18. Now, that doesn’t excuse all of the defensive shortcomings but it’s worth remembering…
In closing vs. Tel Aviv…
A tough offensive game for Dončić and Tel Aviv knew what they wanted to do: throw bodies at him, ensure he doesn’t turn the corner on pick-and-rolls and force him to give it up someone else and make others make shots.
And it was executed very well.
Dončić was able to get to the free throw line often to help make up for his struggles from the field and this wave of defensive pressure allowed him to set up others for opportunities that, really, should’ve been taken advantage of but his teammates couldn’t always get it done (missing Gustavo Ayon in this one did not help).
Despite all of that, Dončić still registered a game-high PIR of 30 which is still hugely impressive.
Defensively, up and down for Luka — had good moments at times and had some meh moments… Some decent awareness stuff though, stuff that wasn’t there to begin the season so that’s encouraging going forward…