MILWAUKEE – When you need a full dose of bad medicine, it’s usually not fun.
But it ends up making you better in the long run.
That’s the way the Mavericks have to approach being without Luka Doncic for a period of time, maybe until after Christmas as his sprained right ankle suffered Saturday night against Miami heals.
It could be longer, maybe a little shorter if they’re lucky. But either way, it will not be so long without their superstar that it would cripple their hopes and dreams.
The Mavericks have no option but to look at this as an opportunity, a chance to see who wants to step up and carry a bigger load. A chance to see if they can handle adversity during a very taxing part of the schedule.
Basically, a chance to see what they’re made of.
It would be hard for any team. Take James Harden away from Houston and the Rockets would have a more difficult time winning. Same goes for the Los Angeles Lakers without LeBron James or Milwaukee without Giannis Antetokounmpo.
That’s who the Mavericks will see Monday night when they take on the Eastern Conference-leading and red-hot Bucks in Milwaukee.
Doncic is one of those stars you don’t replace. You just try to cope as best you can when they are not available. The best thing is for the players to rally around each other and stick together, no matter what.
Obviously, some players are going to have to step up if the Mavericks hope to have any success during these four games before Christmas that are against the best teams in the Eastern Conference, starting with red-hot Milwaukee on Monday night.
Two players would seem to have great chances to pick up the slack of the 30 points, nine rebounds and nine assists that will be missing with Doncic.
First, Jalen Brunson will get a lot of Doncic’s minutes. He’s been one of the primary backups at point guard all season (along with Delon Wright). Brunson had solid moments in relief of Doncic on Saturday and with Wright still recovering from a right adductor strain.
Brunson will not be relied on to score like Doncic, but he is a capable playmaker and rebounder. Over the last five games, he’s scored 14 or more points in three of them. Against the Heat, he had 18 points, seven rebounds and eight assists in 34 minutes.
It stands to reason he will be the primary point guard moving forward until Doncic returns.
Secondly, this is a great chance for Kristaps Porzingis to play big, which he has begun to do lately. He’s averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds in the last two games and over the last five, he’s averaging 17.4 points.
The Mavericks will have to alter their offensive strategies somewhat, coach Rick Carlisle said after the overtime loss to the Heat. But that doesn’t mean they can’t still be effective. It might require more physicality from some players.
And it might require somebody who has been sequestered mostly on the bench this season to step up – somebody like J.J. Barea who can get his own shot and create points for himself and teammates.
And players that have to carry a heavier load now will be better off for it. That’s what the Mavericks and their fans must understand and embrace: that this will be a difficult process, but it’s something that could help them down the road – just like bad medicine.