Luka Dončić carried the Dallas Mavericks to the Western Conference finals and continued to put the team on his back against the Warriors by averaging 32 points in the series. But after Golden State eliminated Dončić's Mavericks with a 120-110 win in Game 5 on Thursday, Dončić didn’t particularly think he did a good job.
“I don't like losing, especially not like this,” Dončić said to reporters. “I played terrible.”
Dončić probably holds himself to a higher standard than most. The 23-year-old had back-to-back 40-point outings in Games 2 and 3, though the Warriors won both of those games to take a commanding three-games-to-none lead in the best-of-seven series. He had 30 points in the Mavericks’ lone win of the series in Game 4 and finished with 28 points in Game 5. It was clear that he was the Warriors' main focus on defense.
On Thursday, Dončić helped spur a 15-2 run to close the third quarter, cutting the Warriors’ lead to a manageable 10 points entering the fourth. But Golden State and its championship mettle was too much for the young superstar and his team.
Still, Dončić held his head high when looking back at the Mavericks’ season and admitted that the Warriors were just better.
“But if we talk about our season, I'm really proud of this team, everybody, every player, every staff member,” Dončić said. “Nobody had us here. But I promise we fought until the end. Congratulations to Warriors. They were obviously the better team. But I'm really proud of this team.”
Dončić heaped more praise on the team that just beat him, noting that the Mavericks should strive to be like the Warriors.
“I think you can see the championship team the Warriors are, and we've got to learn how to be that,” Dončić said. “They were amazing. Every game, they were there and they deserved to win.”
Despite his frustrations, Dončić certainly should have nothing to be ashamed of regarding his postseason performance or his season as a whole, which saw him earn another spot on the All-NBA First Team. Ultimately, the Mavericks just ran into a deeper, more proven team in Golden State.
With more experience, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Dončić lead his team to the promised land sooner rather than later.