Though coach Tyronn Lue denied there was any tanking involved, the LA Clippers became one of the big stories of the final week of the regular season when losses to the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder dropped them into fourth place in the Western Conference.
As a result, the Clippers set themselves up to avoid the Los Angeles Lakers until the conference finals, but in the process they also set up a first-round meeting with the Dallas Mavericks and Luka Doncic.
The Clippers defeated the Mavericks in the first round in the bubble a season ago, but life comes at you fast, especially in the NBA playoffs, and the Clippers find themselves down 2-0 heading into Game 3 on Friday in Dallas (9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN and the ESPN App).
Through two games, Doncic is averaging 35 points, 8.5 rebounds and 9.0 assists while shooting 50.9% from the floor and 41.7% from deep. Simply put, in a series in which the other team has a two-time Finals MVP and a five-time All-NBA selection, Doncic has been the best player on the floor.
While he's only 22 years old, he's taken another big step forward this year, his third in the NBA. If he and the Mavericks can hold serve this weekend, they will end the Clippers' season -- and serve notice to the rest of the league that Doncic's rapid improvements have made him a player you try to avoid in a postseason tournament.
Not only is he the most talented young offensive player in the world right now, but he's also proving he's a fierce competitor. That combination, along with his natural maturation process, is resulting in another Luka leap, and the numbers suggest Doncic is on a rapid road to greatness.