The NBA playoffs can be a funny thing. You would think that when it comes to players that appear to be on the path to all time greatness, that postseason success should be a formality. Especially early in the playoffs, if you have the best player more times than not you'll see your team advance. That hadn't really been the case when talking about Luka Doncic. You could argue he's been the best player in every series he's ever played in, yet at no point in his young career had he ever won a playoff series. That shit continues into his second contract and the rumblings surely start. When he got hurt right before these playoffs, it wasn't crazy to think the Jazz had enough of an advantage to pull out 4 wins.
They fucked up, let the Mavs snag some non Luka wins, and then once he came back things didn't exactly look as great. Luka started to look like Luka and the Mavs were back to looking like one of the better teams in the NBA, just like they had since the calendar turned to 2022. Even with that though, the Jazz still had their chance to keep this series and their season alive
Man, hard to get a cleaner look than that for Bogdanovic. I know there may be some out there that think he should have put the ball on the floor, but watch the play again. There are multiple Mavs right there ready to rotate. You take that three every single time, especially if you're Bogdanovic and you just made this three a few possessions earlier
Sometimes though, to advance in the postseason you need some luck. Sometimes that means a guy who was a 40% three point shooter this entire season from that exact spot comes up empty. For all we know, that one shot could be what helps send the Mavs to the Finals or potentially even a title. If Bogy makes that shot, history could be different. Maybe the Jazz win the series and don't blow up their roster. Now? The landscape of the NBA probably changes.
Of course, this isn't just about Luka finally advancing. We all are aware of what happened the last time the Mavs won a playoff series correct?
That's right, they won the title. It's been 11 seasons since this franchise has won a single playoff series if you can believe it. That feels insane for a franchise that has an owner who will spend whatever, good coaching, and good players. Shit, they had a 49 win and 50 win season back to back and still never got out of the first round. Luka showed up and the Mavs never had a season in which they were fewer than 11 games over .500 and they still never advanced. So while for other fanbases and franchises winning a first round series is not anything special, for the Mavs it's a big deal and rightfully so. I say enjoy and celebrate all you want for a few days and then get ready for what should be an incredible series against the Suns.
For Luka, this was one of the things he simply had to do. A player of his stature and skill, this guy could not keep losing in the first round. That's how you create a narrative or reputation that nobody wants. Look, TMac is an incredible player. He's in the Hall Of Fame and is one of the greatest scorers of his generation. But you're out of your mind if you don't think people view his career a certain way because he never got out of the first round at any point in his career. When you start talking about all time rankings/discussions, playoff success is VERY important. It may not be fair, but that's how it goes.
It certainly doesn't stop here though. This is more just about the relief I'm sure Luka is experiencing now that he's finally done it.
It was always wild to me that a player with this resume
hadn't figured out how to win a postseason series until last night. You know what they say though, sometimes the first one is the hardest. Not everyone can be Magic Johnson and win an NBA title as a rookie or Jayson Tatum and make the ECF as a rookie. This shit is hard, and there are so many variables that go into having a deep postseason run. But now that it's happened for Luka, I'm interested to see what comes next. Now that the pressure to advance out of the first round is gone, maybe that's just what he needed to consistently have the Mavs play deep into the Spring and early Summer.
On the flip side, the Jazz stars are now dealing with that narrative and drama that Luka is trying to avoid. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert have never been past the 2nd round. They've lost in the first round in 3 of the last 4 years. Remember how nobody gives a shit what they do during the regular season because it all comes down to the postseason for them? This is why. Nobody cares if you flirt with winning 50 games every year if you can't even find a way to be playing in the month of May. Nobody cares that they had the best offense in the regular season because when it mattered in the playoffs, their offense ranked 12th out of 16 teams. It's the same story for this group every year, and chances are this has been the final nail in the coffin.
So congrats to Luka, the Mavs, and their fans who have been waiting over a decade to experience the feeling they woke up with this morning. There's nothing better than winning a playoff series, and the best part is this feeling you have right now gets even better if you're able to keep that train rolling. It's a little shitty that their reward for finally getting over the hump is a date with the NBA title favorites, especially when the Mavs went 0-3 against the Suns during the year, but like I said worry about that in a few days. As of now you live to see another day and that's all that matters.