2024 NBA Finals: After receiving harsh criticism, Luka Dončić shows off his skills during the Mavs’ decisive Game 4 victory.

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Luka Dončić had to step up and do more, and considering what had happened over the previous two days, Friday night’s Game 4 of the NBA Finals wasn’t about the Boston Celtics winning the championship or maybe ending an incredible season.

The player with pedigree was the one who would draw attention to himself by catching strays and empty points from all angles, leading his coach to passionately defend his star player.

Yes, for Dončić, it was the ultimate paradox: less feeling, more passion. Less attention on the officials and more on the floor. Less forcing, more physical force—his ponderous style clogs up Dallas’ offensive.

Whether it was a precursor to things to come or just a temporary reprieve before the inevitable arrived, Dončić and the Mavericks avoided humiliation by winning Game 4 122-84 at American Airlines Center.

Ninety minutes prior to kickoff, Mavericks coach Jason Kidd set the tone by standing up for Dončić following two days of the superstar being mocked by the media. Kidd thought the criticism was a little harsh and excessive for someone with Dončić’s level of recognition.

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Given the attention surrounding the coach-player connection in the NBA today—Kidd having been on both sides—he took the action because he knew he had to.

Read More: 2024 NBA Finals: The obvious problem is that Luka Dončić’s defense is insufficient for the Mavericks to win a championship.

That’s what I do. Following the game, Kidd told Yahoo Sports, “My job is to tell the truth and to protect him.” “I did not lie or take any unusual actions. We simply overreached a little bit.

Kidd believed that Dončić has always been responsible, citing his weight, basketball character, and numerous other issues as being put on trial before to Game 4. However, “we” in this case refers more to the media.

“He has never fled from an obstacle. Kidd told Yahoo Sports, “He just sat there and answered all the time. “Even though he was sidestepping and ducking questions, he nevertheless took a seat and responded to the challenging ones. Hey, guys run away, hide, and vanish, and he knows it. However, he takes center stage, and today it was evident in his character and who he is.

Any anxiety or conviction that the Mavericks would fold up — that Dončić would simply give in to a championship celebration taking place in his hallways — was quickly dashed.

If there is hope that the Mavericks can pull off an unlikely victory and force a decisive Game 6 in Dallas, it is in Dončić’s ability to score 25 points in the first half once more. In the first half, he punished smaller guards and overworked the big men on mismatches, ultimately finishing with 29 points, five rebounds, and five assists. The terms of the night were long decided, so by the third quarter, his night was finished.

“Everything will be needed,” Dončić remarked. “It will require energy, particularly since the season is ending.” We engaged in numerous games. We had to be confined together.

In terms of strategy, he moved around more because Dante Exum handled the ball a little bit more, which allowed Dončić to take off his James Harden mask and be responsible everywhere on the floor.

We should have a new conversation if that can be repeated. Up until then, there’s certainly greater irritation that this iteration didn’t appear sooner; nonetheless, it’s possible that the Mavericks had to be forced into this desperate situation before they decided to make a change.

Perhaps. To the idea that Dončić got off the ball more, Kidd responded, “But he’s been a guy who can score.” “He felt fantastic about moving tonight. Thus, we will require that same emotion in Boston.

This night was especially important for Dončić, even if the series concludes as most people anticipate. While unappealing, a sweep would not have been disastrous for a career.

Better guys have faced worse circumstances, so it wouldn’t have left an irreversible stain on Dončić’s record. Big, dramatic headlines previously referred to Magic Johnson as “Tragic.” In the prime of his career, LeBron James failed miserably. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal endured pain and disgrace.

If Dončić isn’t able to accomplish the unthinkable and rally this squad from a 3-0 hole, then this could be the ultimate lesson for him. It’s not a disgrace to lose to a team that hasn’t lost a game in more than a month because the Celtics are among the most historic teams we’ve seen in recent memory. They have four players who will probably end up in the Hall of Fame when it’s all over and are on the verge of joining the illustrious 80-20 club (80 wins and 20 losses or fewer).

That’s why, depending on who is saying what, Dončić’s critique can feel both legitimate and offensive at the same time. That being said, Dončić’s greatness demands the high standards. It’s not unreasonable to expect him to try his hand at defense, if only to avoid placing his teammates in unfavorable situations. He has demonstrated how his force and skill can control a game.

One could argue that Dallas is gradually learning how to play the Celtics. Despite being listed as active by Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla, Kristaps Porziņģis missing a game once more. His unguardable style of getting to the hoop to defend you makes him difficult to control, and it might force the tectonic plates to shift.

However, Daniel Gafford and Dereck Lively II can indulge a little longer if he isn’t present. Generally speaking, along the edges.

And even though it’s in Boston, that’s what the Mavericks need to do in order to win this series. They believe they should have won Games 2 or 3, but they, including Dončić, were the main cause of their own downfall.

Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum were the ones that had trouble tonight. Dončić and Irving had a great night together, with Irving doing his best to guide without taking over from his amazing partner.

The fact that Kidd came to Dončić’s help was not overlooked.

Irving, who finished with 21 points, six assists, and four rebounds, said, “I think it shows you how important it is to have quality leaders in the locker room and somebody that has been through it, somebody that can talk through it.” Additionally, someone who is more than prepared to give their life in order to bear the brunt of the duty and the bullets.

He is aware of how critical it is that we maintain the proper concentration. We cannot devote all of our attention to responding to these unjust, pointed queries. Surely some of them must be reasonable? However, it will be difficult for us to connect if you’re talking shit about one of our teammates if you’re not actually playing with us.

To be fair, the Mavericks organization is guarding Dončić. Every decision the team has made has been focused on optimizing his development and making sure his future is as bright as possible; this is why they traded for Irving and used cunning scouting to select Lively II in the draft.

Given his outbursts at the officials and other flaws that would irritate even the most objective basketball fan, he is difficult to build around and perhaps even difficult to coach.

However, he remains incredibly unique and well worth the upkeep.

There you have our little brother. He’s competing in the championship round. Irving stated, “He is going to make mistakes.” That’s also the reason why, following the game, I felt a little at ease. I’m not going to confront Luka and tell him that everything is his fault. That’s not how our locker room operates. We really don’t want to develop such negative habits right now. I’ve been a part of teams where we let opinions or the media into our operations, and it didn’t turn out well.

To keep his squad focused on what had led them this far, Kidd did not alter the message too much, and they duly responded.

Irving replied that Dončić had silenced the naysayers for the evening. However, the Celtics are the real adversaries here, not the detractors, and in just 48 hours, the emotional scale may turn again in favor of the former.

It doesn’t really change anything, really. It’s first to four, like I mentioned at the start of the series,” Dončić remarked. “We will not give up until the very end. We must therefore continue. I really believe that this squad can succeed; all we need to do is keep believing.

Perhaps Dončić couldn’t shake the sound of Journey’s corny song “Don’t Stop Believin'” since it was playing during one of the fourth-quarter timeouts. Alternatively, it’s possible that he speaks effortlessly because that’s how he feels.

However, this isn’t feasible, is it?

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