Mavericks player Luka Dončić is on the verge of the greatness that all the time seemed inevitable

MINNEAPOLIS — As Luka Dončić sat down within the tiny postgame press conference room, the smallest he’ll use for the remaining of his season, he placed a trophy on the table in front of him. It was awarded to him after he was named MVP within the Western Conference finals. The award began with some kind of shiny gold podium on which the silver globe rested. He admitted he wasn't sure how it will slot in his trophy case.

“(It's) home,” said Dončić, the one destination he was sure of at that moment. “I don't know where yet.”

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Dončić's glittering accolades are too quite a few to list. He has a trophy from Real Madrid's 2018 EuroLeague championship, but none from Slovenia's first EuroBasket victory in 2017. There are countless plaques and medals, too many to count, from past tournaments and finals he played in way back. What was going through his mind, except a beer after the sportwas not his recent metallic chunk, however the pursuit of a good more golden one.

On Thursday, Dončić reached the NBA Finals for the primary time with a 124-103 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 5. With him got here his recent teammates, the most effective he has ever had, reinforcing their towering superstar who seemed destined to succeed in this stage.

Now he has it.

Luka Dončić smiles at his press conference after the Mavericks won the Western Conference finals. (Bruce Kluckhohn / USA Today)

It's been 13 years because the Dallas Mavericks reached the NBA Finals. 13 years since they won the primary crown in franchise history under Dirk Nowitzki's leadership. 13 years of toiling in Nowitzki's late years after which learning to trust Dončić after his arrival. This is Nowitzki's franchise, all the time will likely be, but there isn’t a higher successor. Not because these two legends are equivalent – not even close – but because they share one trait: a relentless will to win that energizes everyone around them. What Nowitzki left behind, Dončić carried on. Now he's where Nowitzki once led them: within the Finals against the Boston Celtics, which begin on June 6.

Dončić didn't watch the NBA Finals as a baby. “It was 4 a.m.,” he said. “I couldn't. I had to go to school the next day.”

But from the primary minutes of Game 5, he left little question that he would rating his first point. He had 10 points in the primary three minutes, 15 in the primary eight, and 20 at the top of the quarter, with the Timberwolves only scoring 19 points themselves.

“I turn around and he's shooting from the halfway line,” center Daniel Gafford said. “I thought, 'At this point, I don't even have to put up a block for you, brother.'”

It was an indication of the finality that Dončić has shown repeatedly before, most famously within the decisive seventh game against the Phoenix Suns two seasons ago.

“This was very close,” said Mavericks coach Jason Kidd. “He took the crowd out of the game right from the start and made it clear to his teammates that it was time.”

Dončić's 36 points on 14 of twenty-two shooting were matched by fellow running partner Kyrie Irving's 36 points. Irving is the one player on the team who has been to the Finals before. Irving is the most effective player Dončić has ever played with, and he matched him on every shot in Thursday's decisive win. He made sure that Dončić's growling and screaming repute was matched by his own firm and sure resolve. With these two on the helm of the team, in games where each resolve losing isn’t an option, the final result is assured.

The teammates around them – whom Dončić met for the primary time 12, 10, and even three months ago – quickly earned Dončić's undivided trust on the court.

When Dončić is unstoppable, his teammates change into augmentation of his brilliance. When played directly against him, Dončić overcomes his lack of athleticism and throws sky-high lob passes that Gafford puts within the basket. When double-covered, rookie phenom Dereck Lively II catches the ball on the free-throw line and tosses it to an open teammate — often PJ Washington or Derrick Jones Jr., two defensive heavyweights who quickly learned that hesitation is unnecessary when those passes are informed by Dončić's own confidence in them.

At times, Josh Green attempts passes so daring that you just wonder if Dončić is manipulating him once they succeed. At other times, old friends like Maxi Kleber show up with their veteran know-how to remind us that Dončić remains to be a young man, just 25 years old, and never even at his best, whilst he watches his teammates grow out and in of their age group. Even 21-year-old guard Jaden Hardy, who has been revitalized over the past two weeks, struts around with a swagger that have to be at the very least partly Dončić's.

Dončić is all the time on the helm and on the helm of the team. He earns his canonization on nights like this, when all you’ll be able to see is that he’s the most effective basketball player on the planet. Whether he and his teammates are enough to topple the Boston Celtics for the time being stays to be seen. The battle will likely be played out over seven games, or six, or nevertheless many are needed.

“We're not finished here yet,” said Dončić. “We need four more.”

Dončić's trophy case, where he’ll place his newfound record wherever it matches, could use a centerpiece. What Dončić would really like to see at this point is the largest trophy the game has to supply. It's something he's all the time wanted since he entered this league laden with laurels he desired to surpass.

Now his first likelihood begins.

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