The Dallas Mavericks are heading to the Western Conference finals and there was little doubt they would get there following their hot start to Game 7. The Mavericks jumped out to a 5727 lead over the topseeded Phoenix Suns on Sunday night and never looked back on their way to a 12390 win.
Luka Doncic was spectacular for Dallas in the opening 24 minutes of play as he led all scorers with 27 points. While that nearly topped the Mavericks’ point total for the first half on its own Doncic had plenty of help as Spencer Dinwiddie chipped in 21 points of his own off of the bench.
In the end Doncic finished the win with 35 points 10 rebounds and four assists in just 30 minutes of action. Dinwiddie provided plenty of help off of the bench finishing with 30 points of his own while Jalen Brunson also chipped in 24 points to help Dallas cruise to a lopsided victory on the road.
On the other end Phoenix struggled all night long on the offensive end as Cam Johnson led all Suns scorers with 12 points off of the bench.
With the win the Mavericks move on to face the Golden State Warriors to determine which team will represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals.
Here are three key takeaways from the Mavericks’ Game 7 victory.
1. Luka legend
LeBron James has never loved a player quite like he does Luka Doncic. The way he plays the game reminds me of the way I play the game James said at AllStar Weekend. James infamously tried to convince Nike to launch a LeBron Brand built around Doncic as its first signature athlete.
Michael Jordan did it with Kobe Bryant. James has done it with Doncic. It’s fitting because Doncic is doing his best James impression right now.
In 2007 a fourthyear LeBron James stunned a No. 1 seeded opponent with Finals experience to get to the NBA’s biggest stage himself. Doncic’s bout with the 64win Suns came one round earlier but had the same feeling.
The NBA’s best regularseason team had no answer for Luka whatsoever. He scored as many points as their entire team did in the first half of Game 7 27.
This is bigger than Dallas having a legitimate chance to win the championship. It’s even bigger than Doncic potentially becoming the NBA’s best player on a day in which Giannis Antetokounmpo’s season ended. This is about reaching a point that we see only once or twice in a generation.
It’s where Michael Jordan was in 1986 when he scored 63 against the Celtics and where James was in 2007 when he slayed the Pistons. It’s that pivotal point in a young career in which anything and everything is possible.
He’ll likely never be the defender that they were. Without a superstar teammate he’ll have a hard time chasing them in terms of championships. But right here right now he is hitting the same checkpoints that they did all of those years ago.
If his career continues on the trajectory that it is right now Luka Doncic is going to be one of the greatest players in NBA history. And we as a collective fanbase get to spend the next decade of our lives watching him try to do it. There is nothing better in all of basketball than that. So buckle up people. The Luka Dancic era is upon us.
Chris Paul turned 37 years old on the night of Game 3 of this series. Prior to his birthday he was averaging 22.6 points 9.9 assists and 1.6 turnovers per game in the playoffs. Since? He fell down to 9.4 points 5.8 assists and 3.6 turnovers.
Now players typically don’t turn into pumpkins at the stroke of midnight but it was a stark reminder that the version of Paul we’d seen over the past few seasons was something of an anomaly. Paul came two wins short of a championship last season. He looked completely helpless against Dallas.
At this point it’s too early to say what might have been behind that. Maybe Paul really did just get old overnight. Marc Spears of Andscape reported that Paul was dealing with a left quad injury. There’s no telling how serious it was but in his late 30s such injuries are probably going to become the norm moving forward.
We should also give proper credit to the Dallas defense. The combination of Reggie Bullock and Dorian FinneySmith did a masterful job on Paul and Devin Booker.
But Phoenix’s entire vision relies on having two star guards. Them winning a championship means Paul has to look like the version of himself he did during the regular season. If he can’t be that player this version of the Suns is effectively out of the championship race. Speaking of which they have another major issue to sort out now.
Grant Williams was hardly a 3point threat when he entered the NBA.
It’s tough to get in your own head when your entire team like 15 people walk up to you and say ‘let it fly keep shooting’ Williams said. For me it was just like alright they’re encouraging it so might as well take advantage. Ime made a joke I shot 18 and that’s probably the most 3s I’ve shot in my life in a single game. It was fun but just great we got a win.
The Bucks’ general defensive strategy since head coach Mike Budenholzer arrived has been to protect the paint at all costs even if that means giving up 3s. They leaned into that approach in Game 7 and essentially spun a big roulette wheel that they hoped would land on missed 3s. It did not.
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Not the same thing but the bubble from my rookie year Game 7 against the Toronto Raptors Williams said. I remember going through those emotions. So I was like that’s how this night’s gonna be.
If you asked me last year I probably would be head down keep it moving but I think the work that I’ve put in over the past year and a half two years three years in the league has helped put me in this position. Glory not only to God in that sense but to everyone around me.
Williams’ shooting was the main story but his most impressive individual moment may have come on the defensive end. He excelled there all series long helping lead the Celtics’ efforts against Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Grant played great tonight Jayson Tatum said. And in the playoffs you need that. You need guys coming off the bench to be a star in their role. Grant won us a playoff game tonight a Game 7. I’m extremely happy for him.