Boston Celtics show Mavs’ Luka Doncic has growing up to do in final NBA Finals win

The Dallas Mavericks are not in the NBA Finals without Luka Doncic, and they will not win an NBA Finals unless Luka grows up a little bit more.

This NBA regular season showed that Doncic is one of the top three basketball players in the world, and a strong case can be made he should have been named its MVP.

This NBA playoffs showed Doncic is good enough to carry a team beyond the Western Conference Finals.

These NBA Finals showed what Doncic needs to do to become what he was born to be: One of the best basketball players who ever lived.

Despite the presence of Doncic and Kyrie Irving, the Mavs were like the rest of the NBA against the Boston Celtics. Not remotely close.

On Monday night in Boston, the Celtics easily cruised/coasted/laughed their way to a 106-88 win in Game 5 of the 2024 NBA Finals. The Celtics were 16-3 in these playoffs, and just won their 18th NBA title.

The Mavs only accomplishment in these Finals was to avoid being swept; the series that featured the “two best teams in the NBA” offered 0.3% drama, and will be remembered as one of the least compelling ever.

It could also be remembered as the series that triggered Doncic to be better, or a five-game set that exposed his fatal flaws.

It’s hard to say a player like Luka Doncic has to be better, but he has to be better. He has to be better because it’s in there. To do less would be a waste.

Disregard all of Doncic’s stats in Game 5. He was bad. He looked wiped out, slow, labored, and defeated.

“It doesn’t matter if I was hurt, how much was I hurt,” Doncic said in the post game press conference. “I was out there. I tried to play, but I didn’t do enough.”

When the game was a “game,” which it wasn’t for long in the first half, Doncic was a non-factor. It didn’t help that his running buddy, Kyrie Irving, couldn’t find the Charles River with a Duck Boat.

For far too long in Game 5, the Mavs best player was reserve Josh Green.

For the Mavs to have any chance against the superior Celtics, Doncic had to be Jordan. He had to be Bird. He had to Magic.

He had to be a Hall of Famer.

Instead, he was the worst version of himself. That version is still better than 99 percent of the players in the world, but not good enough to win an NBA title against a team like the Celtics.

He has to get into a little bit better shape. There is a reason why he’s constantly fighting a series of nagging little injuries. He’s a big man, but he’s carrying a little bit too much weight.

Over the course of an 82-game season, and an extended playoffs, it all adds up in the wrong direction. It will age him faster than necessary. He plays injured, or hurt, far too often.

He has to be a better defender. He has shown, at times, during this season that while he may never win the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award, he can be much better than a liability.

The Celtics had no problem going at Doncic with no reservation, hesitation, or fear. That decision usually worked out well.

He has to re-make his relationship with the NBA’s referees. He has earned his reputation as a one of the top whiners in the game, and the “lobbying” does not help. That he fouled out late in Game 3 of these Finals is inexcusable.

For a player so good, who has achieved so much at the age of 25, aiming at his few flaws is the rare reach that’s on target.

“Obviously we didn’t win the Finals, but we had a hell of a season,” Doncic said in the post game press conference.

He is correct.

The Mavericks did have a hell of a season. For a team that was flirting with the play-in round in early March to advance to the NBA Finals was a most unexpected season, and finish.

Other than Irving, 32, this is a roster loaded with players on the right side of 30. The Mavericks are good, and they have one of the best players in the world.

A player who can be better.

A player who just needs to grow up a little bit more.