MILWAUKEE — Luka Doncic continues to feel right at home when he’s facing the Milwaukee Bucks, even when his Dallas Mavericks are on the road facing a fourth-quarter deficit.
Doncic scored 32 points and matched a season high with 15 assists to help the Mavericks defeat Giannis Antetokounmpo and the defending champion Bucks 118-112 on Sunday.
“Obviously, when you play against superstars like Giannis today, you always have extra motivation,” Doncic said. “He’s a champion, a two-time MVP.”
Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 28 points and 10 rebounds. Milwaukee was essentially at full strength Sunday after resting all of its usual starters in a 153-119 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.
Doncic flirted with a triple-double before finishing with eight rebounds. In six career games against the Bucks, Doncic has averaged 26.8 points, 11.3 assists and 9.2 rebounds with three triple-doubles.
“He’s one of the most talented players in the league, one of the most talented players probably ever to play this game,” Antetokounmpo said.
Antetokounmpo added that “we tried to make it tough for him, but he played well.”
Dallas’ Dwight Powell added 22 points and 13 rebounds – one off his career high – and the Mavericks bounced back two days after a 135-103 loss at Washington.
“On the road against the champs, it’s a hard place to win, especially after we had that performance in Washington,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said. “This group in the locker room knows they can respond.”
After a basket by Bobby Portis briefly gave the Bucks a one-point lead early in the fourth, Doncic led the Mavericks back by scoring or assisting on each of Dallas’ first 11 points in the final period.
Doncic hit a 3-pointer to put the Mavericks back ahead 93-91 with 9:04 left. He made a pair of free throws just over a minute later to make it 95-91. He capped the 8-0 run by finding Dorian Finney-Smith for a corner 3-pointer with 7:20 left.
Antetokounmpo made two free throws to cut the margin to five, but Doncic found Reggie Bullock for a corner 3-pointer that extended Dallas’ lead to 101-93 with 6:55 remaining.
“He’s able to pick apart whatever a defense is throwing at him,” said Jalen Brunson, who scored 15 points for the Mavericks.
Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday sank a 3-pointer to cut the Mavericks’ lead to 101-98 midway through the fourth quarter. Powell responded by converting a conventional three-point play to make it 104-98 with 5:52 remaining.
The margin didn’t drop below five the rest of the way.