The Mavericks appear primed to pull out of their recent tailspin, even without Luka Dončić.

The superstar point guard did not play Sunday night in the Mavericks’ 103-84 victory at Oklahoma City and also will be sidelined Monday against Charlotte, coach Jason Kidd said before Sunday’s action.

Dončić has been fighting soreness in his left ankle for nearly a month. He has mostly played through the pain, but he tweaked the ankle again on Friday at Indiana.

“He had a flare-up with the left ankle injury,” Kidd said. “He continues to get treatment and we’ll see how he feels for Wednesday’s game (against the Los Angeles Lakers).”

Dončić originally suffered sprains to his left knee and ankle against Denver on Nov. 15. He missed the next three games and also was out Dec. 4 against Memphis.

The Mavericks went 0-4 in those games. But their win Sunday against the Thunder proved they are learning how to cope without Dončić.

There’s never a good time to lose your best player, but the Mavericks went into Oklahoma City having lost nine of their previous 12 games. But the win capped a 2-1 trip.

Jalen Brunson stepped in as the starting point guard, with Trey Burke as his backup. Kidd emphasized that he doesn’t expect Brunson to suddenly change his game.

“Jalen’s done a great job running the show and I think Trey coming in to be the backup also has done a great job,” Kidd said. “Getting comfortable playing without Luka . . . (it’s something) they haven’t done it a lot.

“Brunson and Trey just have to stay in character. They don’t have to become Luka.”

The Mavericks obviously have to play a little differently without Dončić and his 25.6 points, 8.5 assists and 8 rebounds per game. They want to emphasize a quicker pace.

And while Dončić is out, it will provide opportunities for other players to step into more prominent offensive roles.

“Jalen and Trey, they might be just a tad faster than Luka,” Kidd said. “And so, just looking at the ball movement – we can’t just rely on Trey or Jalen to do what Luka does for us when he’s playing – we got to move the ball and we got to do it with pace.

“This is a great challenge for us. This isn’t our first time without Luka. So hopefully we’re comfortable and we can find a way.”

Dončić said after Friday’s game that he probably should not have played after tweaking his ankle in the third quarter. But his competitive nature got the better of him.

Kidd said it’s always a fine line when dealing with player injuries and at what point the coach has to step in and make the decision not to allow a player to risk further injury.

“It’s based on the player,” he said. “He needs to communicate with our trainer or the coach and say ‘I can’t move’ or ‘I can’t do something.’

“He’s a competitor. He wants to play. He feels he can help the team on the floor. Unfortunately, if he felt he couldn’t move in that game, he has to come out. We have to get him out so he doesn’t hurt himself. It’s really easy. Just communicate. That’s the biggest thing, communication.”

Interestingly, this is the third time in the last two seasons that Oklahoma City has played against the Mavericks with Dončić on the shelf.

“So we have a decent feel for what it’s like,” coach Mark Daigneault said. “You just expect a little more pace.”

The Mavericks also were without Sterling Brown Sunday against the Thunder. He has been working through a left foot injury.

Kidd reported that Brown has resumed practicing and “we’ll see how he feels. Hopefully, he’s back (Monday).”

Also sidelined was Willie Cauley-Stein, who has been dealing with a personal matter.

Twitter: @ESefko


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