Playing playoff basketball is bliss for Doncic, particularly after a strained left calf forced him to sit out the first three games of the Western Conference first-round series.
"I'm just excited to be back," Doncic said after his 30-point, 10-rebound, four-assist performance. "I had fun out there, just having fun playing basketball. What could be better than in the playoffs? The playoffs are the most exciting, so I'm just glad to be back."
Doncic played 34 minutes, as coach Jason Kidd changed his normal substitution pattern to give his star breaks midway through the first and third quarters. He finished strong, hitting a floater to give the Mavs the lead with 1:13 remaining and a step-back 3-pointer over three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert that felt like a dagger, giving Dallas a four-point lead with 39.6 seconds left.
Eleven seconds remained after Gobert's dunk, and the Jazz were determined to make sure that Doncic didn't get a chance to make the game winner. They double-teamed Doncic as he crossed half court, keeping the ball out of his hands. Dallas sixth man Spencer Dinwiddie missed a 3 from the right wing at the buzzer, the same spot where he had hit a buzzer-beater in a road win over the Brooklyn Nets in March.
"Make somebody else shoot, to be honest," Mitchell said when asked the key to the Jazz's stop on the final possession. "[Doncic] hits tough shots. That's what you want. Dinwiddie hit like three of those same shots during the season, so when he shot it I was a little nervous because I've seen him hit those shots. But at the end of the day, he's shooting over Rudy Gobert, and it's tough."
Doncic, who was injured in the Mavs' regular-season finale and went 13 days between games, said he felt winded at times Saturday. He struggled defensively in the first half, when the Jazz frequently targeted him while building a 54-42 lead. He said the calf did not bother him.
"At the beginning, I was just thinking about it a little bit," said Doncic, who has averaged 33.3 points, 8.9 rebounds and 9.1 assists in 14 career playoff games. "I think in the middle of the game I kind of forgot about it."
Doncic also dominated stretches of the game, going 11-of-21 from the floor and 4-of-10 from 3-point range.
"I mean, he's Luka," said Gobert, who had 17 points and 15 rebounds. "He doesn't need to go fast to impact the game, and he impacted the game a lot, especially down the stretch. He made some big plays. That's why he is who he is."