Dallas Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic did not travel with the team to Milwaukee today and will miss his first game of the season Monday against the Bucks.
Doncic sprained his right ankle less than two minutes into Saturday’s contest against the Miami Heat and did not return in a game the Mavs eventually lost, 122-118, in overtime. It is not known how long Doncic will be sidelined, but coach Rick Carlisle said the second-year veteran will receive treatment and there will be no further updates about his status until Wednesday night when the Mavs host the Boston Celtics.
Doncic was injured when he accidently stepped on the left foot of Heat guard Kendrick Nunn while driving to the basket.
The Mavs fell behind the Heat, 64-40, late in the second quarter before recovering and actually holding a four-point lead late in the fourth quarter and in the overtime session. However, they committed too may costly turnovers during critical times that wound up costing them.
“These (injuries) happen, and when they happen, like I said, it’s next guy up,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got to adjust our strategy a little bit offensively.
“But the biggest adjustment (against Miami) for us was our physical and mental disposition in the second half. We came out really tough in the hit-first mode, and in the first half that just wasn’t the case.”
Doncic is one of the NBA’s special players and also is one of the leading candidates to win this year’s Most Valuable Player award. Doncic went into the game against Miami with eight triple-doubles and averages of 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 by Michael Jordan.
The Mavs don’t know how long Doncic will be sidelined. But they do know they’ll face a Milwaukee team without him, and the Bucks have the NBA’s best record (24-3), have won their last 18 games and are an impressive 13-1 at home.
“I know Milwaukee, that’s a tough team,” guard Tim Hardaway Jr. said. “They (have one loss) at home and they have a winning streak. It’s going to be tough. That’s a playoff-caliber team, so we got to do a great job of just going in there and having that mindset to play hard.”
Obviously falling behind by 24 points and expecting to win is not the ideal approach the Mavs want to have at any point of the season. But by sending the game into overtime, at least they showed they can overcome a huge obstacle without Doncic there to bail them out.
“We’ve got a deep team,” guard J. J. Barea said. “We’ve got great players all around from 1-to-15 and we stay ready.
“I think five guys (on Saturday) after shootaround, we were playing pickup basketball just to stay ready, so I think we do a good job and have to know when we’ve got to step up.”
Barea, who has played in just seven of the Mavs’ 25 games, is a candidate to see his playing time increased due to Doncic’s absence.
“There’s going to be opportunities, a lot of touches for a lot of people, so you’ve just got to be ready,” Barea said. “With (Doncic) here, with him not here, we still got to start the games better, we still got to play a better first quarter, a better first half.
“Whenever coach puts me in I’ll be ready to go. But definitely there’s going to be more minutes out there, more touches out there, so we’ll see what happens.”
Barea contributed 12 points and five assists in only 13 minutes against the Heat and helped lead the Mavs’ comeback bid.
“He’s always ready,” Carlisle said. “He’s a great competitor and gamer. He gave us everything he could give us.
“He gets the building going, he gets his teammates going, he finds a way to get the ball in the basket and makes plays and he did some great things defensively as well.”
In addition to Doncic being out, backup point guard Delon Wright was back for the first time on Saturday after missing the previous two games with a right adductor strain. Wright was scoreless in nine minutes against the Heat.
Meanwhile, point guard Jalen Brunson played a season-high 34 minutes and responded with a season-high 18 points, seven rebounds and a season-high tying eight assists.
“I thought he played extremely well,” Carlisle said. “In the first half he played a brief stint. I think he was the only guy on the team that had a plus at the time, so we went back with him and I just really felt starting him in the second half was the only way to go for us.
“It’s a tough situation for Delon jumping back in a game like this after being out for a week. But he’s got to continue to get some work – kind of like we had with Seth (Curry) three weeks ago. It’s just hard that first game back, so he’s got to get some extra work in and obviously he needs to get on the floor and play, so he’ll get an opportunity to do that.”
Kristaps Porzingis and Hardaway – two of the players the Mavs acquired in the blockbuster trade with the New York Knicks on Jan. 31 — also will get more chances to elevate their game.
“Tim’s a terrific player,” Carlisle said. “I’ve been saying that since we traded for him. He’s a very important part of what we’re doing, regardless of what our personnel situation is.
“He’s an NBA scorer, he’s a great shooter, he’s a great teammate and he plays both ends of the floor and he cares about winning. He’s a real important guy right now, and everybody’s got to be ready and everybody’s got to step it up.”