Luka Doncic’s legend grows, Chris Paul exposed in NBA playoffs

Time gets us all. And in the Mavericks’ dismantling of the top-seeded Suns, Luka Doncic showed his time is now and Chris Paul’s is past.

The Mavericks rolled to a 123-90, Game 7 win that was shocking not in the final victor but in how easy that victory was.

They led by 42 points after three quarters, leaving the Suns — and much of the country — the entire fourth quarter and its aftermath to wonder how the supposed best team in basketball could be made to look so bad?

This meant more to Doncic than it did to Paul

Not to say that Doncic played harder than CP3 (he did), but at 37, Paul’s legacy can only change so much. He’s a surefire Hall of Famer and one of the great point guards of all-time, but he’ll never ascend to the heights of Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West. Juggling the second tier of Steph Curry, Isiah Thomas, Steve Nash, Jason Kidd and John Stockton is just reshuffling the same hand.

But the Legend of Luka is just growing by the day.

Doncic averaged 32.6 points, 9.9 boards and 7.0 assists, leading both teams in all three categories as he bullied Phoenix.

And his 39.0 point average in elimination games is the best in NBA history, albeit a small sample size. He’s ahead of the likes of Alex Groza (33.5 ppg), LeBron James (33.5), Michael Jordan (31.3), Wilt Chamberlain (31.1) and Kevin Durant (30).

The Mavericks' Luka Doncic (r.) and the Suns' Chris Paul (l.) during Game 7 of the second round of the NBA playoffs on Sunday.
The Mavericks’ Luka Doncic (r.) and the Suns’ Chris Paul (l.) during Game 7 of the second round of the NBA playoffs on Sunday.
AP

“He’s Luka. He loves the stage,” Kidd said. “As it gets bigger, he gets better.”

“He’s built for these moments,” said Mavs guard Jalen Brunson, who had 24 points in Sunday’s win. He joked that Doncic has been dominating high-stakes games since he was 9 years old, a nod to the championships Doncic won with Real Madrid and the Slovenian national team as a teenager.

What the heck happened to the setting Suns?

This wasn’t just about a talent. The team with the league’s best record had a 2-0 series lead and blew it, not even showing up at home in Game 7.

Phoenix chose Deandre Ayton over Doncic with the top overall pick in 2018. Sunday they essentially benched him.

Ayton — who will reportedly be looking for a max contract — mustered just five points and logged just 17 minutes. And it wasn’t matchup-related.

“It’s internal,” Monty Williams admitted.

The Suns clearly have issues. Their star trio of Paul, Ayton and Devin Booker combined to shoot just 1-for-15 in the first half. And while Ayton’s future is unclear, the Suns could have a Paul problem.

While the consummate point guard insists he’s not retiring, Paul was a minus-39 on Sunday — the worst in a long career that spans 1,297 games. He was constantly exposed by Dallas, and averaged just 9.4 points, 5.8 assists and 3.6 turnovers in the last five games, with Phoenix dropping four of them.

Paul has now suffered the fifth blown 2-0 series lead of his career, the most in league history (Blake Griffin has three).

Little Thibodeau is ready

That’s the nickname given to current Dallas assistant Sean Sweeney, according to The Athletic. And Sweeney — a former Nets assistant who is up for the open Charlotte Hornets job — has proven himself to be one of the top young basketball minds in the NBA, and deserving of a head coaching spot.

Mavericks assistant Sean Sweeney (l.) with head coach Jason Kidd (r.)
Mavericks assistant Sean Sweeney (l.) with head coach Jason Kidd (r.)
NBAE via Getty Images

Sweeney has been with Kidd since his days in Brooklyn. He authored a book on playoff plays at 25, and was the assistant in charge of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s development in Milwaukee (we see how that went). He’s the defensive coordinator for the Mavs, who jumped to seventh in defensive rating this regular season and held Phoenix to 24.4% shooting in the first half Sunday.

The Hornets could do worse.

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