It was a Star Wars theme night for the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night at American Airlines Center. Unfortunately, the force was definitely not with them.
Less than two minutes into the much-anticipated showdown against the Miami Heat, prized point guard Luka Doncic suffered a right ankle sprain and did not return. X-rays were negative. The Mavs eventually lost to the Heat in overtime, 122-118, dropping to 17-8, while Miami increased its record to 19-7.
Doncic was driving from the left side of the paint to the right and inadvertantly stepped on the left foot of Heat guard Kendrick Nunn, who briefly stepped inside to provide defensive help. After the play, Doncic – obviously writhing in pain – hobbled gingerly off the court and into the area by fans near the basket support.
As far as how the loss of Doncic impacted the Mavs against the Heat, coach Rick Carlisle said: “Obviously you lose a guy that’s a great player – we don’t know for how long. I don’t expect him to play against Milwaukee (on Monday), personally.
“That’s just an opinion. That’s not a media release. But we’ve got to circle the wagons with the guys that we have and play like we did in the second (half).”
Carlisle said Doncic was able to put weight on his ankle before he left the arena.
The Mavs fell behind by as much as 24 points – 64-40 – and trailed 73-50 at the half. But they seemed to have more energy in the second half and actually led 112-108 with 1:08 left in regulation before the Heat forced overtime.
Jimmy Butler missed a pair of free throws with 9.8 seconds left in overtime and Miami clinging to a 119-118 lead. But the ball went out of bounds off the Mavs with 6.6 seconds remaining.
Butler then drilled a pair of free throws to give Miami a 121-118 lead with 5.7 seconds left. After that, Jalen Brunson missed a 3-pointer and the Heat were able to get out of town with a victory.
“If you play hard and do the right things for 48 minutes you’re always going to have a chance in this league,” Carlisle said. “We got plenty on this roster to win a game like this, even with Luka out. We just got to do better.”
Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Mavs with 28 points, Kristaps Porzingis had 22 points and 14 rebounds, Brunson finished with 18 points, seven boards and eight assists, Maxi Kleber had 17 points and J. J. Barea added 12 points and five assists.
“Any time you lose your best player the way he’s been playing, it’s rough. Barea said. “But I think we did a great job.
“Everybody that came in stepped up and put a great effort. But if you fall behind like that to teams like this, it’s tough.”
Barea also said of Doncic: “He’ll be alright. He’s been dealing with this. It happens in basketball, so he’s got to work a little harder now and he’ll be back.”
Hardaway added that the Mavs must have a “next man up” mentality until Doncic is able to return.
“Luka obviously is a huge, huge part of this organization, this team,” Hardaway said. “To see him go down is not easy. (We) just try to figure things out. Coach is going to do a great job of putting us in certain situations to be successful. I don’t know what’s going on right now — hopefully he’s back soon. But for now we know it’s next man up.”
Hardaway exemplified that philosophy when he tallied 10 of his points in the third quarter. And even in defeat, the Mavs learned a thing or two about themselves.
“Perseverance man, perseverance man,” Hardaway said. “I know we got ourselves in a bit of a hole, but, you know, we’ve got some dogs.
“We just can’t wait to get hit in the mouth first and then respond.”
Doncic entered the game with eight triple-doubles and averaging 30.4 points, 9.9 rebounds and 9.2 assists per game. He also had gone 20 straight games with scoring at least 20 points, grabbing at least five rebounds and handing out at least five assists.
That’s the most by any player since the ABA merged with the NBA in 1976, breaking the previous record of 19 held by Michael Jordan.
The Mavs were down, 6-2, at the time of Doncic’s injury. And following a timeout after the Mavs’ prized point guard went to the dressing room, the Heat took full advantage of the situation and quickly led, 32-11, with 2:57 remaining in the first quarter.
“We knew that we were getting outplayed and outworked and we turned it around in the second half,” Carlisle said. “We just needed to make one more play or have one more ball bounce our way or get one more call, and that didn’t happen.
“We fought, got a lead, we got unlucky on a couple of plays and they made some plays and in the overtime the same thing. It’s a disappointing ending. It could have been different, but I think we just got to be better for 48 minutes.”
Butler, who had 27 points for the Heat, said of the Mavs: “They’re a good team, even without Luka. My prayer’s out for him. I hate to see people go down, especially him and the year he’s having. I was looking forward to the matchup.”
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