Playoffs 2021

NBA Playoffs 2021: Luka Doncic is paving a path towards all-time greatness

Years ago, the tagline of the NBA Playoffs was "Where Amazing Happens."

At 22, amazing has become the expectation for Luka Doncic, who has already turned in multiple legendary performances in the first 11 playoff games of his career.

It usually takes time for most players - even stars - to truly arrive as playoff performers, but Doncic has arrived as quickly as a number of the game's all-time greats. Like, who begins their playoff career by scoring 42 points and flirting with a triple-double?

And just when you think Luka can't outdo himself, he does.

It speaks volumes to know that his fourth-ever playoff game is one of the best playoff performances by anyone ever.

43 points, 17 rebounds, 13 assists and a vicious step-back game-winner at the buzzer … all on a bum ankle? That is, quite literally, the stuff of legends.

Doncic did it at 21.

While the Dallas Mavericks lost the series, it had been established that the bright lights and big stage would bring the best out of Luka.

Fast forward nine months and Doncic is back on the NBA Playoffs stage, facing the same LA Clippers team that he had his coming out party against in 2020. Again, amazing was the expectation, but could he really do anything more impressive than what he did in his first-ever postseason appearance?

Absolutely.

As the NBA - and the outside world - slowly returns to normal, Doncic and the Mavericks opened the 2021 Playoffs in a true road game against the Clippers, who earned home court advantage by virtue of securing the West's No. 4 seed.

In a different kind of playoff debut, Doncic recorded the third triple-double of his postseason career, finishing with 31 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds as Dallas wasted no time stealing home court away. Doncic has got a ways to go before catching Magic Johnson, the all-time playoff triple-double leader, but considering his age, Luka is well on his way.

Most Playoff triple-doubles before turning 23
Player Triple-Doubles
1 Magic Johnson 11
2 Luka Doncic 3
T3 Clyde Drexler 2
T3 LeBron James 2
T3 Ben Simmons 2

As an encore to his Game 1 performance, the 22-year-old turned in a 39-point, seven-rebound, seven-assist performance to make it two road wins to open the series. In a Game 3 loss, he recorded the third 40-point game of his postseason career, scoring 44 points (on 15-for-28 shooting) while falling one assist and one board shy of a triple-double.

He's just toying with one of the league's best defences.

Doncic then posted 42 points, 14 assists and eight rebounds in a Game 5 win to give the Mavericks a 3-2 advantage in the series.

Through 11 career playoff games, Doncic has posted averages of 32.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 9.0 assists.

Only four players - Michael Jordan (35.5), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (35.2), Wilt Chamberlain (34.5) and Bob McAdoo (34.5) - averaged more points per game than Doncic in their first 11 playoff games, and they each were much older than 22 by their 11th playoff contest.

In Jordan, Abdul-Jabbar, Chamberlain and McAdoo, there are four former league MVPs that each won multiple NBA titles in their respective careers. That's elite company.

I'm not in the business of predicting the future, but I'd consider that to be a good omen for things to come.

By displaying that it factor as a EuroLeague phenom and a rookie in the NBA, Doncic brought about plenty of excitement regarding what he could one day become in this league. Even before he was drafted, we knew that Luka had the makeup of a player that could one day become an MVP and the centrepiece of an NBA championship team.

It only took one NBA Playoff game to show that he already is that.

It's been 10 years since the Mavericks claimed their first and only Larry O'Brien trophy but with the nightly doses of amazing provided by Doncic, it won't be another 10 before they do it again.

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