Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks are moving on to their first Western Conference Finals in a decade.
After falling behind 3-2 in the series, Doncic powered the Mavericks to two straight massive victories to send the Phoenix Suns packing.
His talent has been obvious since he arrived in the league back in 2018.
The Slovenian “Wonder Boy” made immediate waves as a rookie.
Luka averaged 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game on his way to winning Rookie of the Year at just 19 years old.
He followed that up by going for 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game the year after.
Dallas made the playoffs at 43-32 but suffered a first-round exit to the Kawhi Leonard–Paul George-led LA Clippers.
They met a similar fate the next year too – a first-round exit at the hands of the Clippers.
Neither loss could be pegged on Luka – across 13 games he averaged 33.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 9.5 assists on 49.4% shooting.
Doncic must have gotten tired of losing early in the playoffs.
He has finally translated that regular-season dominance into some postseason success.
And with the series tied 3-3 with Game 7 in Phoenix, Doncic left no doubt early on as to who would emerge victorious.
“Luka Magic” has officially cemented himself as a true NBA superstar.
Doncic Steps Up In Big Moments
The mark of a true superstar is if they step up and deliver when the lights are brightest.
Luka has done just that through three trips to the playoffs.
Luka Doncic in elimination games:
His 38.3 PPG is the highest in NBA history. pic.twitter.com/FkO3dsDX7T
— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 16, 2022
2020 was Doncic’s first trip to the playoffs and experience his first elimination game.
It was Game 6 against the Clippers with the Mavs down 3-2.
Luka went for 38 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists on 15-28 shooting while playing 42 minutes.
Next season, the series with the Clippers went seven games.
In Game 7, Doncic went for 46 points, 7 rebounds, and 14 assists on 17-30 shooting across 45 minutes.
Dallas lost both games, but there is little more Luka could have done.
However, critics will not remember the lack of help from his teammates.
History will look back and simply show Luka lost two critical playoff games.
He made sure it would not be a three-peat.
This Game 7, Doncic poured in 35 points on 12-19 shooting while adding on 10 rebounds and 4 assists.
Numbers that assuredly would have been higher if the game was somewhat close.
Doncic scored the first eight points for the Mavericks en route to tying the Suns at halftime by himself (27-27).
In two consecutive elimination games against the top team in the NBA, Doncic went for a combined 68 points, 21 rebounds, and 12 assists on 23-45 shooting.
He was the definition of “big-time players make big-time plays”.
Doncic has always put up stats come playoff time.
His 32.7 points per game in the playoffs is second only to Michael Jordan.
Luka Doncic career playoff averages:
We are witnessing the birth of Luka Legend. pic.twitter.com/dIn9oekMpf
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) May 16, 2022
But his style of play was not always conducive to winning.
Doncic’s isolation-heavy style of play can lead to stagnation on offense and cause teammates not to get a feel for the flow of the game.
Opposing teams can focus all their attention on him and dare his teammates to beat them.
Something his teammates would not do in the past.
This happened in the first two games against the Suns.
Doncic went for 45 in Game 1 and 35 in Game 2 on 28-52 (53.8%) shooting.
His teammates in those two games went for 69 and 74 on just 48-112 (42.9%) shooting.
Luka seemingly started to learn the lesson that all the greats had to learn – basketball is a team game.
If you don’t elevate your teammates along with yourself, you will never have playoff success.
Here’s a look at Doncic’s teammates’ stats the remaining games of the series:
- Game 3: 77 Points on 29-65 (44.6%) – W
- Game 4: 85 Points on 29-60 (48.3%) – W
- Game 5: 52 Points on 17-48 (35.4%) – L
- Game 6: 80 Points on 24-51 (47.1%) – W
- Game 7: 88 Points on 34-62 (54.8%) – W
Doncic still got his stats but didn’t take the air out of the ball and allow his teammates to stagnate.
Jalen Brunson, Spencer Dinwiddie, and the rest of the supporting cast in Dallas all played a part in pushing the Mavericks through to the WCF.
And if Doncic takes another step forward next round, they could find themselves in the NBA Finals.NEXT: Luka Doncic Always Steps Up When Facing Elimination