If the 20-year-old Slovenian passes up a potential winning shot in a playoff race one of these days the same way he did in a late-season matchup of also-rans, Doncic will be tied to James in a way he might not like as much.
Doncic deferred to Jalen Brunson on a 3-pointer that the fellow rookie missed at the buzzer after Andrew Wiggins hit a go-ahead layup for the Minnesota, and the Timberwolves turned away a fourth-quarter Dallas rally in a 110-108 victory over the Mavericks on Wednesday night.
While he shot just 23% from long range in March and was cold again in his first April game, Doncic had given the Mavericks one of their late leads with the same step-back 3 that has drawn comparisons to reigning MVP James Harden.
But with the clock at 1.1 seconds and Doncic in position for another step-back attempt above the key, he slipped a pass to Brunson on the left wing. If the shot from the two-time NCAA champion from Villanova had gone in, it would have required a replay to see if Brunson got it off in time.
Earlier in his career, James was occasionally criticized for passing up shots late in games.
"For me it's not a question," said Doncic, who had 27 points and 12 rebounds after missing two games with a right thigh contusion. "I trusted him. The whole team trusted him. It was a great shot. Sometimes it's not going to go in."
Karl-Anthony Towns had 28 points and 13 rebounds as the Timberwolves won for the third time in 11 games and avoided a three-game season sweep by Dallas, which trailed by 12 early in the fourth.
Wiggins scored 19 points, including a tiebreaking layup on an assist from Josh Okogie with 19 seconds remaining.
On the final play, Doncic created separation on Okogie to set up for the step-back try, while Tyus Jones came off Brunson to run at Doncic, prompting the pass.
"That was a great possession," Towns said. "Tyus pulled all the way over, getting the ball out of Luka's hands and getting it to Brunson's hands. To get the ball out of his hands and put it in Brunson's, it falls in our favor."
Dwight Powell finished a point off his career high with 25 for Dallas.
Dirk Nowitzki, who has just two home games remaining in what is expected to be the 40-year-old's final season, scored nine points. The Mavericks were coming off their first two-game winning streak since early February.
Nowitzki scored his first seven points in the first 3½ minutes of the second quarter after joining a presentation from Dallas County officials, who a day earlier declared April the "month of Dirk" while honoring him for recently passing Wilt Chamberlain for sixth on the career scoring list.
Timberwolves: Jones scored 15, and Dario Saric added 14. ... Wiggins had a game-high seven assists. ... The assist on Wiggins' go-ahead basket was the only one of the game for Okogie.
Mavericks: F Dorian Finney-Smith sat with a cut on his mouth. He was the only player to appear in all 77 Dallas games coming in. ... Brunson scored seven of his nine points in the fourth quarter, but had his 15-game streak of double-digit scoring stopped. ... After making two 3s in a game for the first time in his career in a win over Philadelphia, 7-foot-2 center Salah Mejri missed all four from long range but made all five from inside the arc and scored 11 points.
COLD TO HOT
Towns was 12 of 15 from the field after shooting 35% (27 for 78) in his previous four games. "I've been on a very rough stretch, to say the least," said Towns, who scored at least 30 in both of the previous Dallas meetings. "My dad always taught me you want to be the guy, no matter how bad you're shooting from the field or in the game, when the game's on the line you've gotta make the shot. It's good to have some confidence from a game like tonight."
Doncic was 2 of 8 from 3 is shooting 23 percent from beyond the arc since March 1. But he wasn't the only cold Dallas shooter. Nowitzki, playing a record 21st season with the same franchise, was 1 of 8 as the Mavericks shot 18% (7 of 39) from beyond the arc.
Timberwolves: Miami at home Friday.
Mavericks: Memphis at home Friday.
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