Luka Doncic had a rough night at the office on Tuesday.
And when it was over, he’s like a lot of us after a bad day. He didn’t want to be around anybody. So he left. It was a bit uncharacteristic for the second-year star. He’s almost always in the locker room after a game to visit with reporters, even if it’s not his favorite part of the job.
This time, he was long gone. And on Wednesday, he had an explanation.
“I was feeling sad yesterday,” Doncic said. “I was (mad). I went straight home. You just have to get through it.
“When we lost a game like this and I have a bad game, I felt like I let everybody down. And I want to be alone. The next day, it’s all better.”
And it was. Doncic and the Mavericks went through a brisk practice session in advance of Thanksgiving Day and afterward, he played an extended version of one-on-one with several teammates rotating in and out of game, depending on who could get a defensive stop.
It seemed to be therapeutic after the 114-99 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday. In that game, Doncic was treated to a swarm of LA defenders as Paul George, Patrick Beverley and Kawhi Leonard all switched on and off of Doncic during.
It was a physical night, but no worse than usual, Doncic said.
“No, everything is physical with me,” he said. “I don’t think so (that it was any more physical). Just a bad night for me and the team. Bad game, that’s all. Bad game, move on.”
Doncic had 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists. But he shot just 4-of-14 against the Clippers (0-of-8 on 3-pointers) and had seven turnovers. In short, it was as much as any team has slowed him down this season, with the possible exception of Denver.
It was clear that the Clippers intended on throwing everything at Doncic and dare the rest of the Mavericks to beat them. It was a sound strategy, as it turns out.
It’s likely something Doncic will see more of in the future, perhaps starting with the upcoming three-game road trip that begins Friday at Phoenix.
What the Mavericks must do is hope that the Clippers’ game was an aberration. They still are playing ahead of the curve after 17 games with an 11-6 record. Doncic said it’s a solid beginning.
“We’re hoping to be in the playoffs, that’s all,” he said. “We want to be as high as possible. But the goal is to be in the playoffs.”
It’s too early to start looking at the standings. But the Mavericks’ start to the season has ensured that they will be playing meaningful games the rest of the way. And in the Western Conference, every game is a potential swing game with so many teams feeling like they have a legitimate shot at the playoffs.
What matters at this point to Doncic is building on what the Mavericks have started. He knows defenses are going to try to lock down on him and get physical.
But he has been able to counter that well most of the season.
“Just play my basketball, the things I know how to do,” Doncic said about how he combats the various defensive attacks against him.
Considering that he is coming off his first Western Conference player of the week award for leading the Mavericks to a 4-0 record while averaging a triple double last week, Doncic has earned a pass for one off game.
As J.J. Barea said: “He’ll be fine.”
Barea and Doncic have not played a lot in games together, mostly because Barea has only played three games. But that could change. Every time Barea has seen action, he’s produced.
“Barea in the second half gave us some real pop out there,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He and Luka have a real synergy when they play together. They have a respect for each other and they play well off each other. He (Barea) is always sitting there ready to go, which is big.”
Said Doncic about Barea: “He’s an amazing player. He’s dying to get out there and help the team. It’s great to see him do his thing.”
Briefly: Kristaps Porzingis (right knee soreness) sat out of practice on Wednesday, Carlisle said: “Not believed to be serious,” he said. “But he sat out today.” Porzingis has played every game this season with the exception of the second night of a back to back earlier this month . . . Doncic on winning the Western Conference player of the week award: “It was great, especially when we won five in a row. Last night was one bad game. We just got to move on.” . . . Doncic was asked if the Clippers were the best team the Mavericks have seen this season: “There’s a lot of good teams. They’re obviously a tough team. They’re a great team. We shouldn’t pay much attention to this game. Just move on.”