Dallas Mavericks standout Luka Doncic faced a variety of defensive coverages in the team’s triumph over the Toronto Raptors.
On Friday, the Toronto Raptors tried about every defense strategy imaginable to slow down Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks’ offense. Despite finishing with 35 points, 8 rebounds, and six assists in the Mavericks’ 111-110 victory, the three-time All-NBA First-Team guard finished with 35 points, eight rebounds, and six assists.
“Luka is a really good chess player,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd remarked. “That’s exactly what he does. He’s seen it all and appreciates the defense that he can modify on the fly to aid his creativity. He also had some dump-offs where we had some weak-side threes that didn’t work (go in). It distinguishes him.”
When all of Toronto’s plans were added up, there were perhaps a dozen of them tossed at Doncic. Before the game, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse discussed the game-planning process of preparing to defend a superstar like Doncic.
It requires a lot of game planning, as Nurse noted. “It’s been impressive, first of all,” Nurse said. “They’re excellent at finding opponents to guard him that they want him to play against (forcing switches), so one of the big schemes you have to attempt to figure out is what you’re going to do with him in terms of who will cover him.
It seems like he’s getting into the low block more than ever to me, either on post-ups or just bringing it down off the dribble, so there’s another scheme: what do you do when he begins forcing you down? Then who is going to defend him? So it’s different schemes and numerous defenders, then you have to try to attempt to execute them.
The huge defender in ball screen coverage entered the game for the Raptors in a drop, but not a deep one. The big man was instead 3–4 feet above the extent level of the screen to be in a place to defend the paint deep on a potential drive from Doncic. The Raptors’ defense allows the most opponent corner 3-pointers in the NBA, so they frequently rotate the low man aggressively to help defend the paint.
In the play below, Doncic quickly neutralized Scottie Barnes by rejecting the ball screen with a jab step. Doncic got deep on the attack, forcing Christian Koloko to engage him on the drive and Pascal Siakam to make a low-man rotation. Dorian Finney-Smith was wide open in the corner when Doncic made a late spray-out pass to him rather than forcing a tough layup.