The NBA took the game of basketball to Mexico for the 29th time, but the Detroit Pistons, formally designated as hosts, never felt being at home.
Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, who hopped over the border from neighboring Texas, completely stole the show.
The Slovenian prodigy sent the capacity crowd in Mexico City’s Arena Ciudad de México 20,064-seater into frenzy by his pregame address in fluent Spanish, and then got down to business producing another wonder on the floor.
In another dazzling display of his shooting, playmaking and leaping abilities, the Mavs point guard scored 41 points, collected 12 rebounds and dished out 11 assists, becoming the first player under 21 in NBA history to record multiple 40-point triple-doubles.
Scoring-wise he stopped only a single point shy of his Nov. 19 career best when he dropped 42 on the San Antonio Spurs in Dallas.
On Thursday night, he also set a new scoring record in NBA regular season games played in Mexico, previously held by the Suns’ Devin Booker who in 2017 had scored 39 twice against the Mavericks and the Spurs.
Mexican fans were excited by Doncic’s performance, showering the 20-year-old with repeated “MVP, MVP!” chants throughout the game.
“Real happy for him. He did everything. He drove it. He shot it. He made a couple good plays on the breaks. He made a couple good passes. He was a huge contributor tonight,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle told reporters after the game.
Doncic was not the only inspired Maverick on the floor in Mexico City– Seth Curry had a scoring night to remember as he racked up 30 points off the bench on 11-of-15 shooting, and Kristaps Porzingis added 20 for good measure.
The Mavericks rolled easily to another victory, their 17th of the season, beating the Pistons 122-111.
Mexico has been hosting NBA teams since 1992 as part of the league’s Global Games campaign, which had been launched in 1984 in an effort to showcase NBA to audiences outside the United States and Canada. It initially started as a series of preseason exhibition ties and eventually began to include regular season games.
The first exhibition game on Mexican soil was played on Oct. 27, 1992, when the Houston Rockets beat the Mavericks 104-102 in an all-Texan affair. On Dec. 7, 1997, the same opponents faced off in the first regular season NBA game in Mexico and the Rockets won again 108-106. So far, NBA teams have played 10 regular season games in Mexico, and the 11th is scheduled Saturday when the Spurs play the Suns.