For the first time since 2011, the Dallas Mavericks are only four wins away from reaching the NBA Finals. And the team is leaning on a 23-year-old wunderkind in Luka Doncic, who's already solidified himself as one of the most dangerous playmakers in the league. In the Mavs' blowout victory over the Phoenix Suns in Game 7 of the West semifinals, Doncic scored as many first-half points (27) as his opponent, and finished with a team-high 35 on a dozen-made baskets.
In spite of his age, Doncic has never looked overwhelmed by the postseason spotlight. Although the Mavericks failed to advance past the first round of the playoffs last spring, he didn't fold under pressure in their Game 7 loss against the Los Angeles Clippers. Doncic recorded a team-high 46 points on 17 of 30 shooting, and also added 14 assists. Doncic possesses the killer instinct, and it reminds Boston Celtics legend Cedric Maxwell of one of his old teammates.
"We need to find out where Larry Bird is, because that may actually be Luka. He might be in his body -- have you seen Larry Bird out lately?" Maxwell told The DA Show on Wednesday. "Luka does the same things that Larry did at a younger age. The dominance on the offensive end is scary... Everybody who watches him thinks they can guard him because he's slow, methodical. Then you get on the court, and he beats everybody out there going against him.
"Great rebounder. Great shooter. Amazing range. When I talk about Bird, Luka lives for the moment. And Larry's biggest attribute and talent was, he wanted to send the opposing team and fans home crying. And that's what Luka looks like -- you see him when he takes a shot. He doesn't even look at the players. He's looking over at the stands like, 'Damn, I know you liked that, didn't you?' It was brutal to watch him, the way he went at some of those Suns players."
Matching Bird's postseason accomplishments would be a rather tall order for Doncic. In a dozen trips to the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Hall of Fame forward won three championships and received two Finals MVP awards, and also averaged 23.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 6.5 assists across 164 games. Earlier this month, the NBA named its new Eastern Conference Finals trophy after Bird, who won three consecutive league MVPs from 1984-86.
Doncic is well on pace to produce his own Hall of Fame career. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he became the second-youngest player in NBA history to record 35 points and 10 rebounds in a Game 7, and through 23 career playoff games, he's averaging a laudable 32.7 points with 9.3 boards and 8.3 assists. The Mavericks will visit the Golden State Warriors for Game 1 of their Western Conference Finals series on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET tipoff), and according to FiveThirtyEight, they have a 54-percent chance to reach the NBA Finals.
The entire basketball conversation between Maxwell and DA can be accessed in the audio player above.