Luka Magic is back. Luka Doncic returned to action Tuesday night after a three-game absence. Left knee and ankle sprains had sidelined the Dallas Mavericks’ superstar and the team went 0-3 with him out.
Doncic and the Mavericks didn’t get off to the best start against the Los Angeles Clippers in the final game of their four-game Western Conference road trip. But they played well enough to keep it close and close out the game. Thanks to Doncic’s return, Dallas was able to notch a much-needed win in overtime, 112-104.
“Mentally, I was really happy to be back, you know?” Doncic said. “I miss basketball. I know it’s only been three [games], but like I said in the morning, I will do everything possible to play the game. I felt great after I woke up from my nap, and I was just ready to go.”
Prior to the game, head coach Jason Kidd said Doncic was a game-time decision. It was the same forecast he gave before the previous game concerning Doncic’s availability. Doncic did not suit up against the Clippers on Sunday, but Kidd said that he had been ramping up in preparation for a return.
“The last two days before this, his prep work was at a high level,” Kidd said. “He practiced. I’m just happy that he was able to go today. He helped us with this big win on this road trip against a very good team.”
Doncic hit his first two shots of the game, a floater in the lane and a post-up of Terrance Mann. He finished the quarter with six points. He only made one field goal in the second quarter, a three-pointer—the Mavericks’ first three of the game with 39 seconds remaining in the half.
In the second half, Doncic really got going. In the third quarter, he erupted for 15 points on 6-8 shooting, including connecting on three of his five three-point attempts. He wouldn’t score in the fourth quarter or overtime, but he still made his presence felt with four rebounds, two assists and two blocks.
He finished the game with 26 points, nine rebounds, nine assists, a steal, and two blocks. Not bad for a first game back, but even Doncic readily admitted that it took a lot out of him.
“I was tired,” he said. “Overtime in the first game back? It was tough, but we got a win and that’s all that matters. So, I was happy.”
It’s a significant win too, giving them a 10-7 record and sole possession of fourth place in the West. You can even call it a signature win with the season nearly a quarter of the way over. Dallas was on a three-game skid and hadn’t shown that it can consistently beat teams over .500—the Mavs are now 4-7 against such teams this season.
If there’s one thing the road trip made clear, it’s that the Mavericks need Doncic healthy if they want to have any chance competing in a tough Western Conference. There were standout individual performances in the three losses, but Doncic remains the centerpiece of the offense. Having him back in the lineup made the difference on Tuesday.
“I wanted to play this game really bad, you know?” Doncic said. “That’s why I got to say the medical staff did a great job. Everybody helped me every day and we made it happen.”
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