NO LUKA, THERE’S A PROBLEM: If any superstar the caliber of a Luka Doncic goes down before fans could finish purchasing their popcorn and locate their seat, that team will suffer mightily. That was the case with the Mavs as they seemed more shocked and totally stunned that Doncic sprained his right ankle less than two minutes into a game between two of the top teams in the NBA. While mentally trying to recover from the loss of Doncic and equally worrying about his immediate future going forward – and still trying to remain focus on the task at hand — the Mavs momentarily lost that focus and fell behind 64-40 late in the second quarter. The NBA – as is all of sports – is a star-driven league. And when a team’s brightest star is sidelined due to injury in a way that Doncic went down and could not return to the court, there are some challenges that team had to face. The Mavs faced those challenges and could not overcome them.

COMEBACK FELL SHORT: Despite losing a megastar less than two minutes into Saturday’s game, the Mavs showed a side of themselves not many probably thought they had. Except for early lapses while trying to digest the sprained right ankle that sidelined Doncic for the remainder of the game, the Mavs recovered and gave one of the NBA’s best teams a run for their money all the way to the very end. And if not for some mental mistakes and crucial turnovers late in regulation play and in the overtime session, the outcome very well could have been different. No, the Mavs don’t want to get accustomed to playing without Doncic. That’s ludicrous. But at least they were able to dial up some schemes that worked from an offensive standpoint. Schemes that provided them with a 112-108 lead with 1:08 remaining in regulation, and also gave them a 118-114 lead with 3:04 left in overtime.

HARDAWAY GETTING BUCKETS: Tim Hardaway Jr. showed that what happened to him on the court in Mexico City actually stayed in Mexico City. The seven-year veteran shooting guard tallied a game-high 28 points against Miami on 11-of-22 shots, including 6-of-14 baskets from behind the 3-point arc. It’s the most field goals Hardaway has attempted and made in a game this season. Also, 10 of Hardaway’s points came in the third quarter and another eight came in the fourth quarter when the Mavs mounted their comeback to climb out of a massive 24-point hole. Hardaway’s performance also comes one game after his poor 1-of-6, 2-point output on Thursday in Mexico City during a 122-111 win over the Detroit Pistons. Consider that game an aberration as before that Hardaway poured in 29 points during last Sunday’s 110-106 loss to the Sacramento Kings.

PORZINGIS DOUBLING UP AGAIN: Forward Kristaps Porzingis left his mark on Saturday’s game as he finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds in a season-high 40 minutes. This was the eighth double-double of the season for Porzingis and the fourth time he’s collected a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double this year. Plus, the rebound total was one shy of the season-high of 15 rebounds which Porzingis grabbed during a 110-102 victory over Toronto back on Nov. 16. It also was his first double-digit rebound game since he snatched 13 boards in a 120-113 victory in Phoenix on Nov. 29. Porzingis was 7-of-21 from the field and 3-of-9 from 3-point territory. He also blocked two shots and handed out a pair of assists. It’s the 12th time this season Porzingis has blocked at least two shots in a game. He currently ranks fifth in the NBA in blocks with 2.04 per game.

BRUNSON GETS HIGH POINT TOTAL: With Doncic sidelined very early in Saturday’s game, and with backup point guard Delon Wright obviously not himself after returning from a two-game absence while dealing with a strained right adductor, the Mavs turned to second-year guard Jalen Brunson for some assistance. Brunson calmly delivered and finished Saturday’s contest with a season-high 18 points, seven rebounds and eight assists in a season-high 34 minutes. Brunson’s assists total matched his season high – he also distributed eight assists during a 109-106 win in Denver on Oct. 29. And his seven made field goals ties for the most Brunson has connected in a game this season. He was 7-of-8 from the floor in just 18 minutes during the Mavs’ 121-114 triumph over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Dec. 4. Brunson’s performance shows how deep the Mavs are at the point guard position.

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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