Over the past two years, Luka Doncic has found himself in three win-or-go-home situations. He’s 0-3 in those games.
Two years ago against the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks trailed that best-of-seven series, 3-2. Then they lost the series-clinching game, 111-97.
Last year in the opening round of the playoffs – again against the Clippers – the Mavs found themselves in another win-or-go-home situation. This time it was a Game 7, which the Mavs lost, 126-111.
Also last summer, Doncic represented his home country of Slovenia in the do-or-die Bronze medal game in the Olympics against Australia. Slovenia lost that game, 107-93.
Of course, the losses were no reflection on Doncic, who played terrific in all three games. But before Wednesday’s 131-113 victory over the Detroit Pistons, coach Jason Kidd explained that those rough experiences in win-or-go-home games should bode well for Doncic once the playoffs start on April 16.
“I think it’s a crash course of what it means on the biggest stage and what you have to do to be successful, and he’s come so close to having that success,” Kidd said. “I think that’s going to help him to be able to draw from his pass experiences from the playoffs (and) from the Olympics.
“He’s going to be right back on the biggest stage with the biggest lights, and he tends to deliver. We’re going to need that, but also we’ve talked about we’re going to need others to help with that.”
As the regular season winds to a close and the playoffs begin, Kidd remains aware of helping Doncic with the mental part of the game.
“(It’s) just recognizing and talking to him during the moments of when I can see he’s getting frustrated,” Kidd said. “And there’s a trust that I will help protect him and communicate with the officials of what he’s trying to communicate to them. That’s a partnership, and I will do everything to protect him and the rest of the guys.”
Doncic, of course, appreciates how Kidd has come to his defense.
“I think he especially gives me calmness and just talks to me about those things,” Doncic said. “He said, ‘Just keep calm. I’ve got you.’ And he helps me a lot in those situations.”
The way Kidd sees it, the mental aspect of the game is just as important as the physical part.
“The championship teams will always talk about the mental warfare that they had to go through to win,” Kidd said. “And it can be exhausting.
“But if you can do it together it’s a lot of fun.”
Kidd believes Doncic has learned from the earlier playoff experiences and that it will be a teaching tool once the Mavs kickoff the 2022 postseason party.
“All of that being said, then it’s a matchup situation of who you’re playing, do you have the advantage, are they going to be a team that’s going to be physical and knock you down, or wear you down,” Kidd said. “How you handle that mentally — I think that’s going to be probably one of the big areas for his growth is the mental side of the playoffs.
“The physical side is gifted. And I think as he sings that song going to the playoffs, I think that’s going to help him move forward in the playoffs.”
WHO TO SCOUT?: Although there’s only two games remaining in the regular season, the Mavs still don’t know who they’ll be playing in the first round of the playoffs. And that puts them in a pickle as far as scouting is concerned.
The Mavs could open the playoffs against either the Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets or Minnesota Timberwolves. With so many potential opponents still in play, it’s difficult for the scouts to hone in on one or two teams.
“It’s a little confusing, but I think there are some scouts watching games because we don’t know who we’re playing,” coach Jason Kidd said. “Again, we kind of control home court, and that doesn’t mean just (the) four (seed).
“We’ve got to just play these (two games) out, and on Sunday hopefully somewhere around 9:30 or 10 o’clock we’ll know who we’re playing.”
The Mavs are currently a No. 4 seed in the Western Conference, but could finish as a third seed if they finish the regular season at least tied with the Golden State Warriors. The Mavs hold the tiebreaker over Golden State by virtue of winning the season series, 3-1.
The Warriors will finish the regular season with three games in four days starting with Thursday’s home game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Golden State also will play Saturday in San Antonio and Sunday in New Orleans.
“At the end of the day I think you always look to have home court,” Kidd said. “If you can achieve that goal, then you can build from there.”
KIDD ON TIGER WOODS: The world of sports will be on pins and needles Thursday when Tiger Woods makes his long-awaited return to the golf course.
Some 14 months after he was involved in a horrific single-car crash that, among other things, had some saying he was lucky to be alive, Woods will be playing in the Masters on Thursday morning in Augusta, Ga.
It’s a miraculous comeback for one of sports’ greatest icons. And millions will certainly be watching Woods’ every move.
“What Tiger is doing has already broken the Internet,” coach Jason Kidd said. “I think the next step is just for him to play well on Thursday and Friday to make it to the weekend, and I think he’ll break the Internet again. And then if he’s in the running for winning it, he definitely will shut down the Internet.
“But what he’s done to just come back is incredible, and I wish him the best because I think everyone will be watching tomorrow at 10:34 (ET) to see his first tee ball, and then for the rest of the time that he’s playing. But it’s just remarkable and it’s going to be fun to watch.”
BRIEFLY: Maxi Kleber (right ankle soreness) and Sterling Brown (personal reasons) sat out Wednesday’s game against Detroit. . .Reggie Bullock played in his 66th game this season Wednesday. That’s the most games he’s played in one season in his career, topped by the 65 games he played last season when he was working for the New York Knicks. . .With the two three-pointers he made Wednesday, Luka Doncic has 192 triples this year. That ties him with the career-high of 192 baskets from downtown that he made last season.
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