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NBA Finals 2024 - Inside the Mavericks' proving grounds for Luka and Kyrie's next magic tricks - ESPN

GOD SHAMMGOD ENTERS into a defensive stance, the 3-foot long padded extensions strapped to each arm serving as tools against the isolation wizardry of Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic.

They're in the middle of one-on-one work inside the Mavs' practice facility, and Shammgod is shading to the left side of Doncic's hip to prevent the superstar from launching into his signature move.

«You can't go right!» Shammgod shouts as he defends Doncic on the perimeter. «You can't shoot the step-back right!'»

Shammgod knows Doncic will take the taunt as a challenge, but the Mavs' fourth-year assistant and head of player development is merely following the scouting report. Doncic has taken 527 step-back 3-pointers during the regular season and playoffs, according to his NBA Advanced Stats shooting splits, and you could use your fingers to count the number of times he went to his right.

At least that was the scouting report until the final seconds of Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, when, after shaking Wolves center Rudy Gobert, Doncic fooled the four-time Defensive Player of the Year by stepping back to his right and drilling the winning 3. It was the first time all postseason that Doncic didn't go to his preferred left on his step-back 3.

But Shammgod and other Mavs assistants weren't stunned. They've been getting beat by that move all season.

They'd seen Doncic splash plenty of righty step-backs during post-practice one-on-one sessions, during which Doncic and backcourt partner Kyrie Irving take turns attacking the rotating trio of assistants that also includes Darrell Armstrong and Marko Milic.

And just as they'd seen Doncic's new wrinkle to his step-back, Irving had hit plenty of 20-foot southpaw hook shots in front of