The Dallas Mavericks were just one win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Explosions from Luka Doncic and Tim Hardaway Jr. were nearly enough to get the Mavs past the loaded L.A. Clippers.
But in the end, it just wasn't enough. Besides a brilliant performance by Kawhi Leonard, it was the lack of help around Luka Doncic that cost Dallas the series.
Right away, blame shifted towards Kristaps Porzingis, who scored just 16 points in the critical Game 7. Making about $30 million per year, KP was supposed to be Luka's sidekick and the Mavericks' second-best player.
Ahead of Sunday afternoon's series-deciding game, Tim Hardaway Sr. had an interesting thing to say about that Porzingis trade in 2019 -- a move that has since raised some eyebrows in light of recent events:
“Y’all wrong, the conversation was they were trying to get Tim here,” Hardaway said. “I’m serious. I’m going to tell you the truth. Dallas wanted to get Tim.
Now, everybody is saying that Tim Hardaway Jr. was a throw-in. No, Porzingis was a throw-in."
At the time of the trade, the Mavs were hailed for getting their hands on Porzingis, a talented scoring big often described as a "unicorn."
Tim Hardaway Jr. was sent to Dallas as part of the deal, a detail that had gone mostly untalked about until now.
With Porzingis struggling to make an impact, it was actually Hardaway who stepped up as Dallas' second-best player. He made big shots and consistently hit threes, allowing for Luka to take less of a scoring load.
Unless Kristaps can turn things around, things are only going to get worse.