"The league is in great hands with guys like Zion, Ja Morant, Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Jayson Tatum, and the list goes on and on." This was LeBron praising the next generation right after Zion put up 35 on him back in March. If you didn't know, now you know - James was spot on with his prediction.
Yesterday's opening day of the post-season marks the first time in NBA Playoff history that four players under the age 25 have scored 30+ points on the same day. But that isn't the only historical aspect of the night. There's so much more that went down yesterday. So let's check it out; let's see why the NBA is in great hands.
Utah's guard Donovan Mitchell dropped 57 points in a 135-125 loss to the Nuggets after the game went into overtime. Mitchell shot 19-for-33 from the floor, 6-for-15 from behind the line, and had converted all of his 13 free throw attempts. He single-handedly kept the Jazz in the game, but Denver's team effort had them taking a 1-0 lead in the series.
With his incredible scoring display, Mitchell etched his name in NBA history books, setting a playoff scoring record for the Utah Jazz, and having a third-highest scoring outing in the postseason history, right behind Elgin Baylor's 61 and Michael Jordan's 63.
The Nuggets were led by Jamal Murray's 36 points outing. The Canadian point guard had a super-efficient night, hitting 13 of his 20 field goal attempts, and 6 of 9 three-point attempts. He scored or assisted on 15 of the team's final 17 points in regulation, including a massive step-back 3-pointer and heavily contested midrange jumper to tie the game. Murray went on to score 10 of the team's 20 points in the overtime period to get Denver over the hump and take a 1-0 lead in the series.
Next up was Jayson Tatum, as the Celtics were going up against the 76ers. The 22-year-old forward delivered a 32 points performance, as he led his team to a 109-101 win against Philly. Tatum added 13 rebounds, and also had an efficient night putting the ball in the basket. He shot 10-for-21 from the floor and 10-for-11 from the charity stripe, as the Celtics took a 1-0 lead against the Sixers.
Tatum was great, but his outing might have been 'the most ordinary performance' of all on this list. However, there was nothing ordinary about what Luka Dončić did in his playoffs debut. The Slovenian wonder dropped 42 points against the Clippers, setting an NBA record for most points scored in a postseason debut. The record previously shared by Derrick Rose and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who both dropped 36, is now in the hands of the Mavericks' superstar.
But that isn't the only elite company Dončić has joined with his performance. Luka became one of four players in the league's history to have a 40+ points postseason scoring outing at the age of 21 or younger, with the other three being Magic Johnson, LeBron James (2x) and Tracy Mcgrady. Needless to say, Luka is the quickest to do it. There's simply no stopping the guy. Paul George knows it.
He’s the future, we didn’t come here thinking we can stop Luka, but what we did expect was to make it tough on him. We'll continue to try to wear him down as much as possible.
LeBron still may be the face of the NBA, but as you all know; father time is undefeated. And when it does catch up with James, he doesn't have to worry about the post-LeBron era of the league. Last night alone is the ultimate proof of it - the NBA really is in great hands.