Luka Doncic is very good at basketball.
That’s it. That’s the article.
No, I’m just kidding, but basically, that’s the gist of the article. We already knew the young Slovenian was an emerging star in the league. He won the 2018-19 Rookie of the Year award almost unanimously. He made his first All-Star team this past February at age 20. He has already recorded 25 career triple-doubles, the most in NBA history before turning 22 and almost double the next closest player — a guy by the name of Magic Johnson had 13, maybe you’ve heard of him.
The bottom line is that we’ve known Doncic is special, but he brought it to another level in his first career playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers were heavily favored in the series, and for good reason. On paper, the Clippers are light years ahead of Doncic’s Dallas Mavericks. The only way the Mavericks stood a chance of competing with the Clippers, who are widely considered to be the favorites to win the title this year, was if Doncic played out of his mind. Well, he did just that.
He kicked off his playoff career with a 42-point (most ever in a playoff debut), nine-assist, seven-rebound performance in a 118-110 loss. Despite the loss, he showed that he was going to keep Dallas relevant in the series. Even the soft-spoken, reserved Kawhi Leonard took notice of Doncic.
“He’s great,” Leonard said after Game 1, according to ESPN. “You know what I mean? He’s very poised. He’s very trusted on that team. He can get to his spots, find his teammates, gets them easy baskets. He makes tough baskets well. He’s a great player.”
Doncic followed that up with another great performance in Game 2, scoring 28 points in the Mavericks’ 13-point victory to even the series. Then in Game 3, he was limited to under 30 minutes after a left ankle injury forced him to miss much of the second half. Still, he was able to record his first career playoff triple-double with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
There was uncertainty whether Doncic would be able to play in Game 4, but as a game-time decision, he suited up. Instead, it was second-leading scorer Kristaps Porzingis who didn’t take the floor due to a torn meniscus in his right knee. He was later ruled out for the rest of the series, leaving Doncic as the only true scoring threat for the Mavs.
How did he respond? With one of the best playoff performances of all time capped off by one of the gutsiest shots I have ever seen. Doncic recorded another triple-double with 43 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists. Still, none of it would have mattered if not for his final shot.
Down 133-132 with just under four seconds remaining in overtime, the Mavericks inbounded the ball to Doncic, who dribbled, took a deep stepback 3-pointer and nailed it for the win.
To be able to take and make that difficult of a shot with the game on the line shows the confidence Doncic already has in just his second NBA season. It was truly a remarkable game and a terrific shot that will be on highlight reels for years to come.
With the series then tied at 2-2, the Mavericks were putting up way more of a fight than the Clippers probably expected. But ultimately, the Clippers would prevail, winning Game 5 in blowout fashion, and then holding off another great showing from Doncic in Game 6 with 38 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. The Clippers had the more talented and complete team, so there was only so much Doncic could do, especially without Porzingis for half the series.
It shows a lot in a series that featured two of the top stars in the NBA in Leonard and Paul George, Doncic was usually the most electric player on the court. He ascended to superstar status with his performance in this series, averaging 31 points on 50% shooting and almost single-handedly putting up a fight against arguably the best team in basketball.
It’s hard to believe that three teams passed on this guy in the 2018 draft. I’m sure all three are kicking themselves right now because we’re seeing something special happening right before our eyes. A new era has arrived. Luka Doncic is the future of the NBA, and if the Mavericks can build a solid team around him, they will be competing for championships very soon.