It’s tough going when your star player is sidelined. It’s been one and nine-tenths games since Luka Doncic suffered a left ankle sprain, and the Dallas Mavericks are trying to weather the loss of their All-Star and MVP candidate.
Dallas did well against the Phoenix Suns after Doncic left the game in the first quarter, walking away with a 99-95 win. The Mavericks’ fortune sans Doncic did not travel. Against the Utah Jazz two nights later, Dallas fell behind quickly and couldn’t complete a late rally, losing 108-100.
“The guys were exhausted, but that’s the way you have to play if you want to win on the road,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said after the game.
Spencer Dinwiddie has done what he can to keep the Mavericks buoyant in Doncic’s absence. He’s played 81.2 minutes in the last two games, scoring 71 points on 51.2 percent shooting overall and 64.7 percent from deep. He also grabbed 10 rebounds and dished 17 assists.
Reggie Bullock poured in 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting off the bench in the loss to Utah. He’s come alive in January after a sluggish start to the season and has made seven 3-pointers in the last two games. It’s a shame that Dallas wasn’t able to capitalize on his hot shooting in Salt Lake City.
The loss to the Jazz dropped the Mavericks’ record in games Doncic didn’t play to 0-6. More concerning is that it also saw them fall in the Western Conference standings. Dallas now sits in seventh place, thanks to the Milwaukee Bucks blowing out the New Orleans Pelicans Sunday, firmly planted in the play-in tournament.
Dallas returns home to take on the Detroit Pistons and Pelicans before heading back out on the road for five games. The Mavericks face the Golden State Warriors, Jazz, Los Angeles Clippers, and Sacramento Kings twice.
The road trip will be challenging, especially if Doncic hasn’t returned. Dinwiddie, though, doesn’t see Doncic missing too many more games with his sprained ankle.
“It’s nothing bad,” Dinwiddie said of Doncic’s injury after beating Phoenix. “I don’t know if he’ll be back next game or if he’ll miss a couple or something like that. It ain’t no cause for alarm where we’re about to go on a 10-game stretch without LD. He’s going to heal up nicely. He’s a young kid.”
With Doncic, Christian Wood, and Maxi Kleber out, Dallas must dig deep and find a way to get everyone involved on both ends of the floor. Even if they do, their next-man-up mentality can only do so much to mitigate the absence of Doncic on the floor.
“It’s not about the injuries,” Kidd said. “We’ve got to play with the guys in uniform. That’s just the way the league is.”