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Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks are dealing with growing pains

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Published in Basketball
Sunday, 22 May 2022 23:50

DALLAS -- Moments after his Dallas Mavericks were pushed to the brink of elimination in the Western Conference finals, superstar guard Luka Doncic viewed the situation through a long-term lens.

Doncic scored a game-high 40 points in Sunday's 109-100 Game 3 loss to the Golden State Warriors, including 21 while the Mavs attempted to mount a fourth-quarter comeback that never gained much steam. He also, however, had the game's worst plus-minus, as Dallas was outscored by 19 points in Doncic's 40 minutes on the floor, with the Warriors continuing to have success targeting him on the defensive end while going up 3-0 in the series.

Doncic, whose team is now 2-6 when he scores 40 or more points in a playoff game in his career, accepted accountability for the loss that put the Mavs in jeopardy of being swept in the franchise's first conference finals appearance since the 2011 championship run.

"I'm still learning," said Doncic, who also had 11 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. "I think the first two quarters, I played very bad. That's on me. But I'm still learning. I think after this season is done, whatever we are, I think we're going to look back and learn a lot of things.

"It's my first time in the conference finals in the NBA. I'm 23, man. I'm still learning a lot."

Doncic became just the sixth player in NBA history to lose both games while recording consecutive 40-point playoff games, according to ESPN Stats & Information data, joining some exclusive company: Devin Booker, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Jerry West.

It's a list that Doncic wishes didn't include him. Nor did he want to join Golden State legend Rick Barry as, according to Elias Sports Bureau, the only players to suffer losses in four consecutive 40-plus-point playoff performances.

So far this series, a Dallas team that exceeded expectations has been outplayed by a Warriors team with championship experience.

"Nobody had us being here in these conference finals," said Doncic, who is averaging 34.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists in the series. "I think the Warriors are playing incredible. Everybody knows their role. Everybody just stays together. They're a long-built team. They've been together for a long time, and I think they're playing good basketball, so that's what I think is going to be really difficult. And these past three games, it's been very difficult."

First-year Mavs coach Jason Kidd also focused on the experience Dallas is gaining by competing against a team that features likely future Hall of Famers Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

"This is just the beginning of this journey," Kidd said. "I know you guys had us winning the championship before the season started. And that's a joke if you didn't get it. But this is a lot bigger than just this one game or this one series. This is huge for our franchise because none of you guys had us here. You guys were all supposed to be on vacation.

"So it's cool to go through this, and we're going against -- you can call them a dynasty. ... They have three great players who will be all Hall of Famers, and this is a great lesson learned from us. This isn't the end. This is just the beginning."

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