He averaged 29.0 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game in three contests in the first round versus the Utah Jazz (he missed the first three games with a calf injury).
When the Mavs took on the top-seeded Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference semifinals, Doncic turned things up, putting up 32.6 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 7.0 assists per game.
He had four games with at least 33 points, including the final two games of the series in which he scored 33 and 35 points, respectively.
But things were different in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, as Doncic had by far his worst game of this postseason thus far.
Like Night And Day
Despite the presence of Defensive Player of the Year runner-up Mikal Bridges, the Suns seemingly couldn’t do anything to contain, let alone stop Doncic.
The Slovenian native started the series with a bang, exploding for 45 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists in Game 1.
He ended it by putting the hammer down on Phoenix with 35 points on 12-of-19 shooting from the field and 6-of-11 from 3-point range in 30 minutes as the Mavs embarrassed the Suns, 123-90.
Doncic looked like he had entered some rarefied air when it came to his career playoff numbers in just his third postseason appearance.
▶️ Luka Doncic (32.5 ppg) owns the second-highest career scoring average in playoff history (min. 10 games played), behind Michael Jordan (33.4 ppg).
— D210SPORTS (@D210S) May 15, 2022
But on Wednesday, the Warriors made Doncic look like an also-ran.
Golden State head coach Steve Kerr threw different defensive looks at him, and he shot just 6-of-18 and had seven turnovers as a result.
Jason Kidd on Luka Doncic's inefficient Game 1 vs. Warriors' box-and-1, zone, full-court defenses: "He understands what they're trying to do, and he'll be better."
— Callie Caplan (@CallieCaplan) May 19, 2022
The Warriors’ defensive prowess almost left Doncic speechless.
Over the last eight years, much of the attention and recognition given to the Warriors, especially when they reached the NBA Finals five straight times and won three championships in four years, was focused on the offensive end, and with good reason.
The Warriors helped take the brewing pace-and-space revolution to a maturity phase by winning with a brand of ball that was centered around the fast-break and ball and player movement in the half-court.
But the real key to their success, then and now, has been the defensive end.
Golden State has been an elite defensive team, and they finished the regular season with a 106.9 defensive rating, which was tops in the NBA.
That’s the type of double trouble Doncic and the Mavs are up against in this series.
A Transcendent Doncic Is The Mavs’ Only Hope
If Dallas is to bounce back and take Game 2 and have a real shot at taking the series, Doncic has to play great – period.
Luka Doncic on the Warriors defense tonight: "Great job. That's it. That's all I've got to say. They did a great job."
— 95.7 The Game (@957thegame) May 19, 2022
The team simply doesn’t have enough offensive firepower to overcome another subpar performance from its franchise player.
The Mavs trailed 54-45 at halftime of Game 1, and had Doncic gone off shortly afterward, perhaps they would’ve been in position to win.
But no one else did anything of note, as the team shot only 36.0 percent from the field and a frigid 22.9 percent from 3-point land.
One would expect Doncic to have at least a couple of incredible games in this series, but even five or six such performances may not be enough for Dallas unless its other main players play up to their standards.