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Dane Mizutani: Luka Doncic’s dominance of Timberwolves proves how far Anthony Edwards has to go

Every single time Luka Doncic made a shot on Thursday night at Target Center, he let somebody hear about it. Whether he was shouting at the Timberwolves’ bench, or showboating to the fans sitting courtside, Doncic singlehandedly sucked the life out of the building on his way to ending Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals before it really even got started.

He literally outscored the Timberwolves by himself in the opening 12 minutes of play. He made highly contested shots on the perimeter look like routine jumpers. He slithered his way into the paint before finding his teammates for easy buckets at the rim.

In the end, the Doncic finished with a casual 36 points, landing the knockout blow in the early stages as the Mavericks coasted to a 124-103 win to send the Timberwolves packing. He hit the Michael Jordan shrug for good measure down the stretch after banking in a shot from long range. It was an otherworldly performance from somebody who looks to be coming for the crown bestowed upon the NBA’s best player.

It was also proof of how far Anthony Edwards has to go if he wants to lead the Timberwolves to an NBA championship. Never mind that Edwards finished with 28 points to lead the Timberwolves in scoring. That stat line is very deceiving, considering Edwards did almost all of his damage when things were already well out of reach.

The stark contrast between Doncic and Edwards was on display time and time again throughout the Western Conference Finals. It’s perhaps the biggest reason this series played out the way it did, as Doncic was dominant for the Mavericks, while Edwards struggled at times for the Timberwolves.

A cliche in sports centers on young teams needing to lose before they are truly ready to win. That could also apply to young players when analyzing Doncic and Edwards.

You could tell that Doncic had been in this position before simply by the way he handled his business. He has been hardened by the last time the Mavericks were in the Western Conference Finals a couple of years ago, losing to the eventual NBA champion Golden State Warriors.

The same thing cannot be said about Edwards as he shockingly looked overwhelmed by the moment. The hope for anybody that follows the Timberwolves is that this defeat in the Western Conference Finals can help Edwards grow in the same way that it so clearly did for Doncic.

Though nothing in the NBA is guaranteed, especially not somebody reaching his full potential, Edwards seems like a pretty sure thing given the current trajectory of his career. He has consistently taken steps forward, and it looks like the sky is the limit for him.

The next step for Edwards is, well, playing more like the man responsible for sending him home. Everything that Doncic did in this series should be studied by Edwards this summer.

If the Timberwolves tried to blitz him on the pick and roll, Doncic always seemed to make the right decision. If the Timberwolves tried to guard him in isolation, Doncic welcomed it before making his defender look silly. He was was in complete control, regardless of circumstance all the way until the very end.

There’s still a good chance Edwards leads the Timberwolves to the promised land in the future. He’s just not there yet. Because he’s not as good as Doncic.

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