With 9:10 remaining in the third quarter of the Dallas Mavericks' first playoff game in four seasons, a team of officials decided the outcome of the game, ejecting Kristaps Porzingis in what can only be considered a questionable call and sending the Clippers on their way to a 118-100 win and a 1-0 series lead.
“I knew KP had my back,'' Luka Doncic said of the tussle that got Porzingis booted from the bubble. "He did it for me and his teammates. I didn’t think it was fair to kick him out of the game, especially in the playoffs.''
From that point forward, Dallas' Game 1 fate was not only decided, but the burden of victory was thrown squarely onto the shoulders of a 21-year old Doncic, who just so happened to be playing on an injured ankle in the first playoff game of his career.
The same 21-year-old who was constantly being defended by two of the league's top three perimeter defenders in Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. Not to mention the likes of pests like Marcus Morris and Patrick Beverly, each of who threw a completely different style of defense in Doncic's way.
Despite all of those factors working against him, however, Doncic showed a national audience exactly what has the fans and organization in Dallas so excited for the future.
Because, for Doncic, there is no stage too big, no lights too bright, and no competition too steep.
Here's the evidence:
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After getting off to an admittedly rocky start, the Slovenian wunderkind was unstoppable, setting an NBA record for points scored by a player in their playoff debut with 42 points, and becoming just the fourth player ever aged 21 or younger to score 40 points in a playoff game, joining the likes of Magic Johnson, LeBron James, and Tracy McGrady.
His final line was, of course, just shy of another triple-double, finishing with nine assists, seven rebounds, and three steals for good measure. And while his 11 turnovers is an eyesore, that kind of thing will be cleaned up, especially when his running buddy, Kristaps Porzingis, returns to his side in Game 2.
Said KP of Dallas' young leader: "Luka was Luka. Making history again.''
From a national perspective, there is sure to be plenty who do not watch Doncic on even a semi-regular basis, who were just introduced to what he is about, and what makes him so special.
For the rest of us, however, this is exactly what we expected. (Oh, and for the Clippers' Paul George, too, who said afterward, "He's the future. We didn't come in here and think we could stop Luka.") From the time he stepped on the floor for the Mavs against the Beijing Ducks on September 29 of the 2018-19 season, we all knew this guy was special.
Now, two seasons, a Rookie of the Year award, an All-Star Appearance, a Most Improved Player nomination, leading the league outright in triple-doubles, multiple statistical milestones, and a dominant playoff debut later, the rest of the world knows, too.
But Luka himself is learning as well.
"I've got to get way better than that,'' Doncic said. Typically.