Luka Doncic out-Dueled Ja Morant, Secured a Triple-Double, and Made NBA History All in 1 Night

The Memphis Grizzlies entered their game on Friday night with hopes of extending an 11-game winning streak. Clearly, Luka Doncic had other ideas.

In a battle against fellow star Ja Morant, Doncic had a brilliant night in the Dallas Mavericks‘ 112-85 rout of the Grizzlies. Not only that, the 22-year-old continued his precipitous rise up the record books and accomplished yet another historical feat.

Luka Doncic out-played Ja Morant in the Mavericks’ decisive victory

Ahead of Friday’s matchup in Memphis, ESPN’s NBA Countdown debated whether they’d rather start a franchise with Doncic or Morant, whose play has entered him into the MVP conversation. Stunningly, analysts Stephen A. Smith, Jalen Rose, and Michael Wilbon all pledged their support toward the 22-year-old Morant, now in his third season.

Perhaps all three would like to reconsider after seeing the two young stars go head to head.

Doncic led all scorers with 27 points on 12-of-22 shooting, and that’s with an off-night from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Morant had 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting but eight turnovers, his second-highest total of the season. The big difference was in the second half, where Luka had 18 points to Ja’s four.

Sticking with Doncic, the fourth-year veteran also led all players with 12 rebounds and 10 assists. He now has four triple-doubles this season, the third-most in the NBA. The Slovenian was also a part of Dallas’ defensive clinic in the second half, holding the red-hot Grizzlies to just 30 total points in the final two quarters.

“Our defense was amazing,” Doncic said after the game via ESPN. “[The Grizzlies] have a great offense, and it’s tough to stop them, but I think we did an amazing job in the second half.”

Doncic’s triple-double made NBA history

Luka and the Mavs have a lot to celebrate after knocking off one of the league’s best teams. But they can also celebrate the young superstar ascending into one of the league’s most prestigious clubs.

With a 27-12-10 stat line, Doncic secured his 40th career triple-double. He’s now one of only 11 players in league history to have 40 or more triple-doubles and the fifth active player. The young star is now just four away from passing Fat Lever and officially entering the top 10.

That’s not all for Luka. At 22 years and 320 days old, he became the youngest player in league history to reach 40 triple-doubles. And only Oscar Robertson, the longtime king of the statistic before Russell Westbrook, reached it in fewer games than Doncic’s 226 (The Big O did it in 92 games, by the way).

Considering he’s still a few weeks away from his 23rd birthday, Doncic has a long time to keep climbing up the triple-double list. With 40 triple-doubles in 226 games, he’s on pace to reach 80 by his 452nd contest, which could be as soon as three seasons from now.

Luka could very well be in the top six on the all-time triple-double list when he’s only 25 years old. Not too shabby.

Luka Doncic is quietly reminding everyone he’s still a superstar

The pregame discussion on ESPN is a perfect example of how recency bias can change everything. A year ago, Doncic was an unquestioned top-five player in the sport and a perennial MVP candidate. Now, the fourth-year star is being replaced by Morant, who with all due respect has never put up numbers Luka has.

It’s not to say Doncic should be the MVP this season. His 24.8 points per game are slightly below his career average, although he is dishing out a personal-best 8.9 assists. And there are players like Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Nikola Jokic more deserving of consideration this year. But that doesn’t mean Luka isn’t a generational talent capable of lifting a franchise.

Due to an ankle injury and a trip to health and safety protocols, Doncic has missed 15 of Dallas’ 42 games. When he’s out, the Mavs are 6-9. But with their star, they’re a solid 17-10. They’ve been especially strong since Luka exited protocols on January 1, going 6-1 in the new year. During that stretch, Doncic is averaging 21.8 points, 10.3 assists, and 10.2 rebounds while playing much-improved defense from previous seasons.

It might be too late for Doncic to enter the MVP conversation. But he should never be kept out of the superstar discussion.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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