It’s been known since he entered the league that Luka Doncic’s time was coming. He’s been talked about as a future face of the NBA and prematurely anointed as an MVP favorite; it’s understood these things will happen, if not yet, then at some point soon.

It justified the pressure heaped upon him. It’s why the conversations about his conditioning or ball dominance, even when they were simplistic and crude, felt more like rites of passage than punching down. Doncic’s eminence could be described in future tense because there was such certainty it would become present.

Well, Luka Doncic is here now. And he’ll be here for a long time more.

Doncic was damn near laughing after every shot he made in Dallas’ 123-90 win in Game 7 on Sunday, a start-to-finish romp over Phoenix that hardly felt challenging. His toothy grin was up for it, had the Suns’ been, and he finished with 35 points on 12-of-19 shooting, despite not even playing in the fourth quarter. In the first half, he scored 27 on 9-of-12 shooting.

Remember, Doncic scored 46 points in a closeout Game 7 against the LA Clippers last season, a not-quite-enough performance against a title contender. At that time, in his third year, he hadn’t advanced past the first round. It was, oddly enough, seen as a slight against him.

But now the Mavericks are in the conference finals, facing the Golden State Warriors, a deserved placement for a squad that has been better than the league’s best team in the regular season for five games. Since Game 2, in which Dallas was blown out on on the road, this team has been better.

It outscored the Suns with a plus-49 margin that made it incredibly clear the Mavs, with the adjustments they made, were better than the title favorites. Dallas savored this underdog status; Tim Hardaway Jr., still sidelined with injury for at least several more weeks, shouted as he walked to the locker room Sunday, “A lot of reporters said Suns in six or seven!”

I was one of them. I didn’t make an official prediction anywhere, but I anticipated something similar. Phoenix deserved respect for the season it had. Which makes what the Mavericks did — coercing the Suns into absolute embarrassment in a must-win Game 7 — even more impressive.