Mavs superstar Luka Doncic was asked after Game 7 how does it affect him when almost everybody picks the other team to win. According to the 23-year-old point guard, it’s a source of motivation for him. “For me it’s the same as trash talking, gets me going,” the Slovenian said. “It’s another motivation stuff. It gets us going. Everybody was talking about it. Even before Game 1 nobody picked us. It was motivational for us.”
Following the Game 7 victory, Doncic shared an embrace with Nowitzki as the remaining Suns fans in Phoenix’s Footprint Center booed them. “(Nowitzki) was just happy. I think it gives everyone on this team a lot of confidence when you see Dirk sitting courtside (even) on away games,” Doncic said. “I think everyone appreciates him because Dirk is Dirk. He’s been through everything. He’s been a champion, so he knows it. I think every player and every coach is appreciative.” Doncic said he’s “really happy,” adding that he “cant get this smile off my face.”
Callie Caplan: Among the NBA’s final four teams, Luka Doncic is the leading scorer (31.5 points) and rebounder (10.1 boards) this playoffs and tied for the lead in assists (6.6) with Draymond Green. Luka’s 1.9 steals-per-game average ranks only behind Heat star Jimmy Butler’s 2.1.
Draymond Green: “Luka dominated the game early and then the role players got going. They were actually missing shots early on. Jalen Brunson was missing early on, Dorian Finney-Smith was missing early on. Where the other guys actually got going was when Spencer [Dinwiddie] came into the game. Spencer came into the game, he really got it going. “And then everyone else picked it up and that was huge. Holding Chris Paul, Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton in the first half to 1/15 shooting. I think that’s been one of the biggest improvements in the Dallas Mavericks team is their defense. From the start of the season to now they’re a totally different team defensively.
Draymond Green: “You want to point our their defense was great and like 27 points their offense was great and guys had it going. It was just a display of dominance. Luka got going and the rest of the guys followed. “That I’m sure caught a lot of people off guard Like I said, I thought they would win. Of course I just didn’t predict that they would win by 40. But the series outcome didn’t surprise me. It didn’t surprise me.”
The way the series went mirrored Paul’s play for the Suns. He averaged 23.5 points and just two turnovers in the first two games — including a masterful 14-point fourth quarter in Game 2 — and Phoenix took a 2-0 lead. But in the last five games, all of which came after his 37th birthday on May 6, he averaged 9.4 points and 3.6 turnovers. Phoenix lost four out of five, collapsing in a similar fashion to its NBA finals loss to the Milwaukee Bucks when two wins were followed by four losses. Paul was ineffective on Sunday, finishing with 10 points and four assists, but not scoring his first field goal until the Suns were already down by 40 points in the third quarter. He literally limped to the finish line, playing through a left quad issue that limited his mobility, sources told ESPN.
Rivers has three years left on his Philadelphia contract worth a reported $24 million, while league sources maintain that the Lakers’ coaching search has moved so slowly at least in part because they want to see if Rivers or another coach from the top tier (like Utah’s Quin Snyder) makes it to the open market this offseason. One suspects that, one way or another, Rivers is going to start next season with a good job.
The Los Angeles Lakers continue to loom as an interested suitor should Rivers become available, but Morey is adamant — for now — that there will be no coaching change. Defensive as Rivers has been with the media throughout these playoffs — mainly about the blown 3-1 leads of his past and his initial devotion to DeAndre Jordan as Embiid’s stand-in — it appears he will get the chance to try to make up for such a limp Sixers finish. “I just think he’s a great coach and I love working with him,” Morey said Friday at his season-ending news conference, with Rivers sitting right beside him at the interview dais.