Arriving at the Goodfriend Beer Garden and Burger House, the question figured to come quickly.
Is Luka playing?
The over-under was 2 minutes and if you took the over, you were a loser with more than 90 seconds to spare.
Wearing a Mavericks’ credential, I felt guilty not having a definitive answer for the patrons at the cool-vibe East Dallas establishment near Garland Road and Peavy.
But the answer came soon enough as locals streamed in to watch Game 3 of the Mavericks’ first-round series against Utah. Luka Dončić was out again for the third straight game with his strained left calf muscle.
That didn’t dampen the buzz as MFFL’s were cheering at watch parties all across North Texas.
So, just where is the pulse of the fans as the series is in Utah for Games 3 and 4? If fans are worried, they aren’t showing it yet.
“I would have been if we’d lost on Monday,” said Mason Lee, who grew up in the Park Cities and now lives in the Lochwood area. “I think it’s a calculation saying we can afford to drop a game tonight and not lose the series. We can get his (Luka’s) battery fully recharged and unleash him on Saturday when he’s fully healthy without having to risk further injury, but I’m not super-worried.”
When the Mavericks went up by 17 points at halftime, the “not super-worried” mentality grew stronger.
“After the win on Monday – if they’d have lost, I think optimism wouldn’t be quite as high,” said Jeramy Lindsey. “After the way they played on Monday, it shows what they could do if everything falls, and they played really good defense.”
The Mavericks’ nation definitely is picking up steam.
Goodfriends doesn’t fashion itself as a sports bar. More of a neighborhood spot that offers inside and outside seating in a comfortable environment.
But on this night, the Mavericks took center stage. When they staved off a Utah rally down the stretch and escaped Game 3 with a 126-118 victory, the MFFLs became more just a little defiant. More like full-blown anticipatory that the Mavericks now clearly have the hammer with a 2-1 series lead in the best-of-seven set.
Amanda Salerno and Jose Becerra, who live in the Lakewood area, were disappointed that Luka was going to miss another game.
But they saw reason for optimism, even with his absence.
“We did get to see a video of him bouncing a basketball with his feet like it was a soccer ball,” Salerno said. “He was like: look, I’m fine. They’re taking advantage of us not having Luka.”
Asked if she thought the Mavericks would have split the first two games without their superstar point guard, Salerno said: “No, I wouldn’t have thought that would happen.”
As the Mavericks pulled away in the second half on Thursday, the tone of the fans continued to grow more defiant, even without Luka.
“I’m actually not that concerned,” said Becerra. “I think Jalen can hold it up for one game. I hope he (Luka) is back for Game 4. They’ll do it in six if he’s back in game 4. I’m not terribly worried about it. But he is Luka. It would be a lot easier with him.”
Regardless of the way this series evolves, the fans clearly are pumped about the future of the Mavericks.
“I don’t see this as a make-or-break year for us,” said Lee. “We got some roster-building to do this offseason, but just get Luka back healthy and keep him healthy and it’ll be all right.”