Luka Dončić has had a lot of technical difficulties this season. And it may cost him Game No. 82.
The Mavericks may have to play the regular-season finale without their superstar point guard after he picked up a technical foul after the first quarter buzzer on Friday night in the blowout win over Portland.
It’s his 16th technical of the season, which means an automatic suspension of one game game. That would come Sunday against San Antonio in a game that could carry significant meaning.
The Mavericks may challenge the technical. Dončić felt that he got undercut on a 50-foot heave at the first-quarter buzzer. He wasn’t all that animated, but referee Tony Brothers – who ejected coach Jason Kidd from a game last week – T’d up Luka.
“I asked him: how is that not a foul. And he just gave me a tech,” Dončić said afterward. “If you ask me, I think 100 percent it should be rescinded because it wasn’t a technical. I just asked him how is that not a call.”
Asked if sitting on Sunday would be such a bad thing, given that he’s had a long season with lots of bumps and bruises, he said: “I want to play every game. It’s our last game. But also we’re fighting for the third spot.”
Brothers was interviewed by a pool reporter and explained the technical.
“At the end of the quarter he took a shot and he felt he got fouled,” Brothers said. “He started to complain to each of the officials. When I was walking toward the table, he was fifteen feet in the backcourt still complaining so he got a technical for continuously complaining.”
Brothers confirmed that there was no cursing involved.
Kidd didn’t seem overly concerned about the technical and the fact that Dončić could miss Sunday’s finale.
“If the league doesn’t take it back, then that was his last game of the season,” Kidd said. “So get some rest and get ready for the playoffs. Most likely, it doesn’t get overturned and we move forward.”
Asked if that would be such a bad thing, given that extra rest at this time of year is like gold, Kidd said: “I think he would enjoy that, for sure.”
It’s possible the Sunday game will carry important implications. The Mavericks, as it stands now, still have a shot to finish third in the Western Conference, pending the outcome of Golden State’s final two games Saturday and Sunday.
If the Mavericks win Sunday and the Warriors lose one of their last two, the Mavericks would finish third.
Reactions to Lakers’ lost season: The NBA regular season ends on Sunday and LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers won’t be playing any games after that.
It’s been a shocker for people around the league, including Jason Kidd, who was an assistant coach with the Lakers for two seasons before becoming the Mavericks’ head coach.
“It’s tough, especially with the players they have and the coach (Frank Vogel) that they have,” Kidd said. “But it just shows that sometimes things on paper tend not to work.”
The Lakers put together the makings of a “superteam” with Russell Westbrook joining Anthony Davis and James. But injuries and chemistry issues ultimately sabotaged their dreams of a deep playoff run.
They were officially eliminated from the play-in tournament earlier this week.
“Injuries are a big part of sports and they’ve had a lot of them,” Kidd said. “That, sometimes, you just can’t overcome injuries. They had a lot of them to two of the best players in the world. It’s hard to win if you don’t have your horses out there playing.”
It’s not like anybody is shedding tears. The Lakers have more championships (17) than anybody other than Boston, which also has 17. And the Lakers won it all in the 2020 COVID-19 bubble season.
Portland’s Chauncey Billups, who has had his share of injury problems in his first season as the Blazers’ coach, echoed Kidd’s sentiment.
“It’s very surprising that they won’t be in it,” Billups said. “It never really came together. The chemistry was never really quite right there. We all know it’s not always about talent. It’s about chemistry and synergy and how well talent plays together. And obviously they didn’t come together quite like they wanted.”
No joke about it: Dončić use to have no comeback when people questioned his desire on the defensive end of the court.
But this season, that’s changed.
When he blocked a shot on the baseline against Detroit on Wednesday, it looked like a clean block, but he was called for a foul.
Afterward, he said: “I think they called the foul because they didn’t expect me to block the shot.”
But seriously, folks, Luka has earned respect this season for his defense.
“Seriously, I think my defense improved a lot this year,” he said. “I think I improved a lot. It’s a team defense. They help me a lot. When we talk, our defense is great. And most of the time, I see everything, so when I talk the team defense is even better.”
Said Josh Green: “He’s stepped up a lot defensively this year. Some teams try to attack him, but he’s able to more than hold his own.”
Briefly: Maxi Kleber (right ankle soreness) had been listed as questionable leading up to Friday’s game, but was ruled out by Kidd in his pregame visit with reporters. “He’s close,” Kidd said. “Hopefully he can play Sunday . . . It’s up to him and how he feels. But he does feel good. Two more days will be helpful. But he’s doing great, feels great, looks great.” The Mavericks are going to have at least six days between games after Sunday’s regular-season finale and Game 1 of the first round. So getting rest for players won’t be an issue . . . Marquese Chriss (non-COVID illness) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (left foot surgery) also sat out Friday . . . Cowboys’ running back Ezekiel Elliott was in the crowd for Friday’s game.
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