'I'm Not Worried,' Says Mavs Luka, Who Promises 'To Be Way Better'

Mike Fisher

The bar, undeniably, is set absurdly high.

Luka Doncic, in Friday's NBA bubble re-opener against the Rockets:

*Commanded an offense that scored 149 points.

*Created his 15th triple-double of the season with 28 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.

*Opposed credentialed superstars James Harden and Russell Westbrook with his trademark enthusiasm and tenacity.

But his team gave up 153 points in the OT loss. But he shot 1-of-9 from the arc. But he coughed up eight turnovers. But he fouled out. But his savvy and BBIQ failed him in clutch time, as happens to his Mavs too often.

Are we asking too much here?

“We’re a young team,” Doncic said after a loss that puts the seventh-place Mavs four games behind Houston in the NBA standings with just seven seeding games to play. “We got a lot to learn. We’ll get better, for sure. I know we’re going to get it together when it matters most in the playoffs. 

"So I’m not worried about that.”

An unworried Luka - as opposed to a flippant one - sounds like a fine thing. But expectations for a franchise that has experienced a whirlwind two-year turnaround mostly thanks to a Slovenian teenager's arrival in Texas have been elevated. And as the terrific Mavs offense is ranked No. 29 in the NBA in clutch-time success, the number of hard-knock losses are elevating, too.

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We talk a lot around here of "growing pains'' and of the "scar tissue'' a team needs on its way to developing into a championship contender. Maybe, in that regard, we need to be more accepting of the fact that the little mistakes committed over the course of four periods (or in this case, five) add up in two categories.

They add up to losses, obviously.

But less obviously, eventually, maybe they are learning lessons that contribute to victories.

Here, the Mavericks were up by seven points with less than a minute to play and suddenly couldn't score. Luka The Leader offered two explanations in one postseason breath.

“We had some bad luck,” said Doncic, at 21 the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year, a  first-team All-Star and an expected finalist (already!) for this year's MVP honors. “I've got to do way better than I played. I can’t be 1-for-9 (from the arc). So I've got to be way better.”

The bar is set absurdly high. But to be fair, we didn't set it for Luka Doncic. In the tradition of all future champions, no matter their age, the bar is being set by Luka Doncic himself.