After a quick return to winning ways was doused by Panathinaikos last time out, it was another narrow defeat for Real Madrid at home against Belgrade on December 1st.
For Luka Doncic, it was a much better outing this time around with 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting, 2-of-5 from three, 4-of-4 from the free throw line, three rebounds, five assists, two turnovers and a PIR rating of 32 in 29 minutes coming off of the bench.
A much better game offensively for Doncic with better shot selection and much better efficiency — 20 points, 7-of-11 shooting and 2-of-5 from three.
Doncic’s three-point shooting was much better in this game: the attempts were reigned in and they were just better looking/higher quality shots.
In the first quarter, Doncic moves off of the ball to the left-wing, gets free thanks to a screen across the lane, receives the ball and goes right then goes to his left (using the momentum of the trailing defender to Doncic’s advantage) and rises into the three-pointer:
In transition, Doncic trails the play — with Rudy Fernandez handling — and springs into the play as the trailer and hits the three off of the pass from Rudy:
Again, just five three-point attempts — I think that’s a really good thing, and one of those attempts was a heave inside his own half at the end of the first quarter so, really, you could say he shot 2-of-4 from three.
There were some nice variety to Doncic’s scoring in this game.
Here, he makes the run off-ball (his defender completely losing him), goes behind the Felipe Reyes screen and steps in for the easy J:
Off of a miss, Doncic steams in transition and finds himself well down the court before the ball is, having contested a three-point and had began to set off down the court in the event of a miss. As he streaks, the ball is outletted to him and he goes up and dunks it home:
People knock Doncic because they say he’s ‘unathletic’ when that isn’t the case. He’s not explosive by any means but he’s definitely not unathletic. He’s sneakily athletic and because other parts of his game are much more refined than other prospects his age, he doesn’t have to rely on it or go to it the whole time like others have to.
Continuing the trend of offensive variety, Doncic mixes it up on the glass, gets in front of the defender and draws the foul and free throws:
Off of the drive, Doncic pulls up on a dime and hits free throw line J, despite the late contest of the help defender:
Doncic didn’t dip into his post game until the fourth quarter, using it to draw the foul and get to the free throw line here:
Five assists and just two turnovers for Doncic in this game: a much more controlled game (in all aspects really, not just when it came to playmaking).
Unlike Panathinaikos, Belgrade didn’t throw bodies at Doncic at every opportunity, really only doing so once off of the pick-and-roll. When it happened, the pass Doncic threw inside was a little risky but ended up working out for the assist:
Again, a little risky but it got there in the end…
Elsewhere when it comes to playmaking, Doncic, again working the transition game as he often does, finds Chasson Randle on the wing for three:
In the third quarter, Doncic fires (what is effectively…) a half court pass to Fabien Causeur, who finds Edy Tavares for the basket:
That’s a sweet pass, perfectly weighted.
There was one turnover, however, that had a massive bearing on this outcome of this game…
Down one point with 36+ seconds remaining in the game with possession of the ball. Doncic tries to take Pero Antic off of the dribble but Antic does a great job to stick with him. Doncic kills his dribble and — it’s hard to tell — he either loses the ball or the attempted pass is caught… Either way, the result is a turnover and Belgrade go the other way and Pero Antic scores the final and decisive bucket to end any hopes of a Madrid victory:
Again, not sure if it was a pass or not but just a horrible time for a turnover to occur. Big shot by Antic though…
If it was a pass, I really like how Doncic looked to pass in that situation with the game and clock are finely strung as they were. Hard to tell, though…
Some really solid stuff from Doncic defensively. Nothing ground breaking or elite but just solid.
He had some good contests:
In previous insalments, we’ve looked at a number of instances where Doncic just doesn’t contest a shot but there was none of that here.
In the past, Doncic hasn’t always been a willing help defender, often watching as the play develops on the defensive end. Here though, he makes the effort to come over and challenge this dunk at the rim:
Even if his contest/help was late and didn’t ultimately affect the shot, he still saw the danger and went to go do something about it.
And, again, more solid stuff defensively as Doncic does a good job moving his feet and prevents the offensive player from penetrating:
Again, this is nothing groundbreaking but it’s just solid.
In closing vs. Belgrade…
Just a much better game from Doncic, probably in every single facet.
Offensively, he was in control. He selected better shots, rhythm shots, picked his spots a lot wiser… The fact he wasn’t faced with intense defensive pressure every two seconds as he was against Panathinaikos really helped him just flow in this game.
A nice variety in offense: mid-range, perimeter, free throws, transition…the usual that we’ve come to expect of Doncic. Not as much pick-and-roll action in this game compared to previous games. There is still no Gustavo Ayon (Madrid really suffer when he’s not around) and we didn’t see as much of Edy Tavares in this game. We know Doncic likes to operate the pick-and-roll but wasn’t much there this game.
Not a whole lot different when it comes to playmaking: looking for others and putting them in positions where they have a chance to succeed. The end-game turnover was unfortunate, however…
And defensively, look, nothing amazing and world-beating but he was definitely a positive defensively in this game — no one looked to really attack him often and when he was, Doncic was up to the task.