On the Bayclays Center court, it was a fierce competition between two of the game’s best point guards. But after the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Brooklyn Nets 115-98 on Saturday night, the scene at the podium was more like a gush-fest, with game recognizing game between James Harden and Luke Doncic.
In fact, Doncic was so blown away by Harden’s praise of him that he was left nearly speechless.
Harden Throws Heaps of Praise at Luka
With All-Stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving both sidelined due to injury, the Nets ran entirely through Harden on Saturday. The Beard finished with 29 points (on 9-of-21 shooting), seven rebounds, six assists and six turnovers. And even though Kristaps Porzingis returned from a three-game injury absence for the Mavs, that did nothing to steal the spotlight from Doncic, who finished with a similar stat line as Harden: 27 points (on 11-of-21 shooting), seven assists, six rebounds and one turnover.
Harden was among the many who was impressed by what Doncic showed Saturday. When asked whether his and Doncic’s games are similar, Harden put the latter in his own category.
“That’s rare for a guy at a young age to be able to dictate and control the game like he does. Obviously, as we know, he has a very, very bright future. The Mavs got a special one.”
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Luka Left Practically Speechless
Doncic, who turns 22 on Sunday and is nearly 10 years younger than Harden, was floored by Harden’s remarks.
“It’s amazing. It’s something you even can’t describe,” Doncic said in response to Harden’s comments about him, per Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News. “If somebody like that says something about you, it’s just amazing. I appreciate it. I watch him. He’s an amazing, unbelievable player.”
Harden and Doncic will play on the same court again in about a week when they take part in the 2021 NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta on March 7. The appearance will be Harden’s seventh in an All-Star Game, and it will be Doncic’s second.
Mavs Coach Weighs In
The similar stat lines, the similar playing styles, the similar generational skill set to go along with the similar statures (Harden is 6-foot-5, and Doncic is 6-foot-7)… all of it worked together to center much of the discussion concerning Nets-Mavs on just how much of Harden is in Doncic, and vice-versa.
“Both of these guys are great one-on-one players,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said, per Winfield. “They’re great passers. They can both play the team movement game very well. Harden has been in a situation the last few years where the offense has really revolved around him, and our team it does around Luka similarly, but our style is a little bit different than Houston and Brooklyn, but both of these guys are generational type players. There’s no question about it, and that’s another thing that makes a game like this very compelling.”