With the Dallas Mavericks’ season on the line, Luka Doncic answered the bell with 29 points, five rebounds, five assists, and three steals in a dominant 122-84 Game 4 victory over the Boston Celtics.

Doncic had been the subject of much criticism in the lead-up to Friday’s clash, and Kyrie Irving was delighted with his co-star’s response.

“I think he made a few people eat their words in a healthy way,” Irving told reporters following the contest, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.


Doncic’s defense, in particular, has been a glaring weakness for the Mavs. Boston has repeatedly targeted the five-time All-Star and even fouled him out for the first time in his playoff career in Game 3.

Dallas head coach Jason Kidd subsequently challenged Doncic’s defensive effort, and the Slovenian put forth a much better performance.

Doncic forced four turnovers and limited Celtics players to 2-of-9 shooting as the primary defender, according to ESPN Stats & Info. He also limited his interaction with the referees after visibly voicing his frustration about several calls in the previous game.

“I think what you’re seeing is him just taking accountability as best he can at this point in his life,” Irving said. “He’s a young person, still trying to figure it out. I give him that grace. Also, we have to give him a little tough love where we let him know and reiterate you got to stay off those (referees) a little bit.

“I think it’s just lessons being learned. When he is locked in like that, not paying attention to the refs, he’s a huge, impactful player for us and a great leader for us. We want him to stay consistent on that and not be too hard on himself either.”

The series shifts back to Boston on Monday for Game 5, with the Celtics just one win away from their record-setting 18th NBA title.

No NBA team has ever overcome a 3-0 series deficit.