It was just about as nightmare of a scenario as possible, but it certainly appeared the Mavericks dodged a bullet when it comes to the severity of the sprained ankle superstar Luka Doncic suffered during Friday’s loss in game three of their first round series against the Los Angeles Clippers.
After practice on Saturday, coach Rick Carlisle said the following regarding the prospects of Doncic suiting up on Sunday for game four:
“In term’s of Luka’s situation, it’s uncertain. We do not have the diagnostic test results back yet, so that will certainly have something to do with it. Mostly it will do with how he’s feeling [and] if he feels if he can play effectively on it.”
More clarification was provided later Saturday evening by ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.
Source: MRI on Luka Doncic's sprained left ankle revealed "nothing alarming." He is expected to be a gametime decision for Sunday afternoon's Game 4 vs. Clippers.
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) August 23, 2020
Of course, Carlisle and the Mavericks players put on a brave face for the battle they could have to face without the 21-year-old MVP candidate taking the court on Sunday.
“We have good depth and we have the ability to play without him, but he’s one of the best players in the world,” Carlisle said. “If that’s the hand we’re dealt, we’re going to deal with it to the best of our abilities.”
“We have a lot of offensive power, so we just gotta keep playing and stay confident. As long as the guys keep stepping up and pushing like that, we should be fine. Obviously we want him to play, he’s our best player,” Maxi Kleber told reporters on Saturday. “He creates most of our offense, and he’s very important to us. He’s gonna be the future player of this franchise for a long time, so we want to make sure we don’t take any unnecessary risks.”
When it comes to the risk of him playing through some pain, Carlisle isn’t worried about Doncic’s ability to play through it, but the idea of him playing through a severe injury isn’t something the organization will support.
“He’s a very tough person. He has a high pain tolerance. I believe that he has played hurt a lot in his young career. I sense that he played hurt pretty frequently in Europe. We do not want him to play injured though, that’s a different situation.”
Whether or not Doncic is on the floor for Dallas, they’ll definitely need to step up on the defensive end on Sunday. In Friday night’s loss, they allowed the Clippers to shoot over 50% overall and 41% from beyond the arc. Reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard had his best game of the series so far by scoring 36 points, collecting 9 rebounds and dishing out 8 assists. While Maxi Kleber is certainly an above average defender, that doesn’t mean that he’s doing the greatest job on a top five player in the league like Leonard. Kleber talked about his approach and mixed results while defending Leonard through the first three games in the series.
“You try to make every shot tough. You know he’s gonna get his shots off, but you gotta make him work for it. There’s a lot of foul calls I get against him, I gotta do a better job of not getting those fouls.”
Leonard has averaged ten free throws per game so far this series and went to the line 14 times on Friday night. Paul George’s struggles have continued through game three, but one would have to expect things will pick up for the All-Star eventually.
The Mavericks will look to tie the series at two with or without Doncic at 2:30 on Sunday afternoon.
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