Luka Doncic made His first postseason Not during the 2020 NBA Bubble, but in May 2015. He was a 16-year-old academy player called up to play 11 minutes in Real Madrid’s win over Gran Canaria in the opening game of the La Liga playoffs, and he’s the best. – From three series of the first round in an eight-team competition.
He played his first professional knockout match – scoring nine points in 19 minutes coming off the bench in another best-three-game series – the following season against UCAM Murcia. He was 16 years old, a recognized rotation player for Los Blancos, winning that match 93-72. Real Madrid beat Barcelona three-to-one in the finals, although Doncic only played 12 minutes in that series. He was still one season away from becoming the undisputed talent of a generation for them; After two seasons, he was named the best player in the league.
He played dozens of post-season matches in the years after 2016, and several elimination matches, not to mention the 2017 Slovenian EuroBasket Series, in which his national team faced eliminations in all four matches after the group stage. (They beat Serbia in the final.)
In 2020, his second season in the NBA, Doncic faced Los Angeles clippers He scored 38 points in the match 6 defeat that ended the season. One year later, he scored 46 points and 14 assists in a Game 7 loss against the same opponent. On Thursday, Doncic won his first NBA playoffs, scoring 33 points to maintain Mavericks“The season for at least one more game. But make no mistake: He’s been here before, many times. For anyone else that’s 23 years old. galactic With a more typical basketball origin story, this would have more weight. But not with Doncic. I’ve been here several times before.
On Thursday, the Mavericks beat the suns 113-86 in Game 6. The first post-season Game 7 will happen on Sunday. Devin Booker never played in one before; Most Suns have gone past the season only once, during last season’s NBA Finals. Despite this, Doncic has grown up in post-season elimination matches from his formative years: real matches against the best teams in Europe, weights bearing his country’s badge on his chest, those he won and lost, and others he played miserably but brilliantly. He’s the best player in the series, with a real possibility that he’s the best in the world soon enough. Another match between winning or going home doesn’t bother him.
It’s more than Dallas expected six months ago when this team worked so hard through poor shooting performances and a terrible start. It’s more than expected even on the final day of the season when Doncic walked off the field with a muscle injury that cost him three matches in the first round. But the Mavericks now have a chance to beat the best team in the league in a series finale, and they know without a doubt that they will have the most superior player on the field to represent them in this upcoming battle. It’s against the best team in the league, but believe me: Doncic has been here before.
There are two ways to look at this upcoming 7 game, the first is the clear evaluation of this series. The home team dominated every game, to the point where there wasn’t a single minute of basketball playing during those six wins. In Dallas, for sure, the Mavericks dominated the series. But Game Seven will take place in Phoenix, on the day their host team is named, in an arena where a juggernaut with 64 wins has always looked that way. Why don’t the Suns win this elimination game?
Then again, the Mavericks have won three of the past four games in the series. Sure, they played awfully in Game 5, but it was One disastrous quarter where they were worse. Dallas lost Games 1 and 2 soundly, having been shocked by the opening tremors of a team that lost nine straight games in the regular season, but that team adapted in the games that followed. Jason Kidd continued his superb training for this team to make the appropriate adjustments: to better conceal Doncic’s defense; to crack how Phoenix creates favorite shots; To replace struggling bench players with influential ones; To control the math advantage of this series in 3 seconds and turnovers as the Mavericks did in the last round against Utah.
In Game 5, Phoenix reacted to Dallas’ defensive adjustments by having Poker instantly attack downhill when Doncic was defending the screen. Kidd reacted in Game 6 by having his team attack every throw and drib that Poker was involved in, throwing him off a rhythm that often seemed uncomfortable even during Thursday’s dribble. With Game 5, you can legitimately say that Poker was better than Doncic in this series. (He’s a brilliant player.) But while Doncic dictated his winning team’s performance, Booker struggled his way to 19 points on a 6-of-17 shot.
Once again, the Suns have not reacted well to the Dallas adjustments in three of the past four games. This is the best team in the league, to be sure, just by its well-deserved record in the regular season. They also have the most wins (37) in the NBA since January 1. But Dallas had the second most wins (35) in the same period. Are we sure Phoenix is better? Has this team proven that in the past four games? Are there legitimate reasons to believe that Dallas should lose Game 7 just because their players are not playing near the Reunion Tower? Or are there narrative reasons to believe, well, that the home team just won all the matches and will continue to do so?
See, weird 7s game. They are always a tense version, both teams do their best and often fail to really be themselves. It’s played with a different card and tempo than any other 48 minutes I’ve ever seen. They’re games to win, and it’s a rare case where tired clichés can be propagated with craftsmanship. Dallas could hit 3 seconds and run away in a victory, or he could miss them all, the team’s heavy minutes since January finally wipe them out, coming home with the season winding down. Nobody knows what could or will happen in Game 7. It’s the most accurate truth in this entire damned sport.
Dallas has the best player in this series, someone who’s been here a few times before. She has tweaks and strategy that they barely manage in four straight games. It does not have the advantage of domestic stadiums, but its pressure is relatively little. If the Mavericks lose, it remains a successful season that pushes the franchise one step further within the grand vision of building a title contender around Doncic.
But by traveling to Phoenix again, MAF might make this trip worthwhile. And if there’s one player you should never bet against, it’s the player who’s been here before. This is Luka Doncic.
(Photo: Luka Doncic: Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)