5 Players who must step up if Mavericks want to make the NBA Finals

Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving
Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving / Sam Hodde/GettyImages
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1. Luka Doncic

Battling through an immense amount of pain and even an illness at times throughout the Mavericks second-round series versus the Thunder, Luka Doncic played a stellar series in the second round all things considered. Obviously, Doncic didn't perform up to par with how he played throughout the regular season, but he was facing a tremendous amount of adversity in this past series, especially when takes into consideration the physicality and force with which Thunder guard Luguentz Dort guarded Doncic with throughout many junctures in the second round.

However, it is objectively true that Doncic is going to need to put together a complete series at some point if the Mavericks want to show that they are true contenders, as there aren't any moral victories in the NBA Playoffs. After a largely inefficient series versus the Clippers in the first round, Doncic looked sluggish and over-expended as the primary initiator of Dallas' offense at times throughout Games 1, 3, and 4 of the second round, as he shot inefficient in those contests and averaged 5.3 turnovers per game throughout those three games.

Doncic shot far better in Dallas' other contests in the second round though, and looked more explosive and confident getting into the paint as well as his spots in the midrange in Games 2, 5, and 6. Doncic made a concerted effort to get more into the paint toward the ladder half of Dallas' series versus the Thunder, and it increased his assists number by virtue of the amount of drive-and-kick opportunities he was generating for Dallas' offense.

Doncic showed that he has the mentality to play at a high level on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball versus the Thunder in a few contests despite the pain he was dealing with, but it's obviously as big question mark as to whether this will be sustainable going forward given the severity of his injuries.

Doncic looked far more aggressive and emblematic of his true self on the court toward the end of the Conference Semifinals versus OKC, as him closing the series with three consecutive triple-doubles was huge in giving the Mavericks a series victory. However, with how small of a margin for error the Mavericks have in the playoffs going forward, it isn't unlikely that they will ride and die based off of how well Doncic can continue to play through pain and discomfort.

If the Mavericks get a complete series from Doncic in the Conference Finals, they could very well blow the doors open on the Timberwolves and make the NBA Finals, but it will take a herculean effort on Doncic's part to make this happen given his situation. For more on Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks in the 2024 NBA Playoffs, stay tuned as we will have you covered.