The season is now over for Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, as they ran out of gas and talent against the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals. They never led during Thursday night's Game 5, and the end officially came with a 120-110 defeat.
While it was a painful night, this was still a season and a playoff run to remember. Despite being under .500 on Jan. 1, and starting the first round without Doncic due to a calf injury, the Mavericks made it to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2011. Along the way, they upset the top-seeded Phoenix Suns with a historic Game 7 win on the road.
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There's so much you can say about this team, but it all starts with Doncic, who led the way in spectacular fashion. He averaged 31.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists during the playoffs, and in the process joined Michael Jordan in an exclusive playoff club. This was the third consecutive postseason in which Doncic has averaged at least 30 points, five rebounds and five assists. Jordan, who did it five times from 1989-93, is the only other player in NBA history to accomplish that feat.
"I'm proud as hell of 'em," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said. "We evolved as a team. We saw Luka blossom -- not just as an amazing player, which we already knew, but as a leader. As somebody who can make a team better. There aren't superlatives enough to describe Luka. Not his play, but just everything else. Every other element of who he is as a person and who he is in the locker room is just a joy to watch."
In addition to his incredible numbers, Doncic also had some prime-time moments where he truly emerged on the big stage. Most notably, the way he took over the second-round series against the Suns and almost singlehandedly willed his team back from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits. In Game 7, he went into Phoenix and embarrassed the Suns, matching their point total (27) in the first half while laughing after every bucket.
There are never any guarantees in the NBA, especially in a loaded Western Conference, but as long as Doncic is around the Mavericks are going to have a chance to compete.