Luka Doncic, in a record-setting performance against the Knicks Tuesday night, hit a game-tying putback off his own missed free throw, erasing what had been a nine-point Knicks lead with 27 seconds left in regulation. His teammates flicked the rebound his way, and the ball settled for a second on the fingertips of two Knicks defenders before rolling off, right back to Doncic. In two quick motions, the ever-efficient guard scooped up the ball and launched it again. Then he did a strange dance.
Doncic broke the Mavs’ single-game scoring record (53, set by Dirk Nowitzki in 2004) and finished with 60 points, 21 rebounds, and 10 assists. No one in NBA history had ever before achieved a 60-20-10 line. He played so well that his primary defender’s postgame quote was “I promise I was trying for sure.” In losing, the Knicks accomplished something no NBA team has done in the last 20 seasons.
The ensuing OT would suck—it took almost four minutes for either team to make a field goal. But the dance! It is of vital importance that after viewing this highlight reel, you watch each angle of Doncic’s dance. The base is a shuffle. The arms—they swish, or swim, or maybe flap. At first, I thought he was agitating for a foul call, but there was no accusation in this dance, only joy. After the game, Doncic said he had danced to celebrate something that hadn’t yet happened:
“A lot of people asked me about this back in the locker room, and I said I thought we won it,” Doncic said. “That’s why I went to the crowd like this. I thought we won the game, and then I see it’s tied. I was like, ‘Oof.’”
I’m not sure the explanation makes sense; he had just intentionally missed a free throw because the Mavs were down two. But adrenaline has this effect, and this is definitely the dance of someone whose every faculty has momentarily escaped him.