Luka Doncic wouldn’t have even played in what turned out to be a meaningless regular-season finale for the playoff-bound Dallas Mavericks without a reprieve from the NBA.
The superstar was minutes away from being finished for the night against San Antonio when he strained his left calf. Now the Mavericks wait to see when, perhaps even if, their 23-year-old All-Star will play in a first-round series against Utah beginning Saturday.
Doncic left Dallas’ 130-120 victory Sunday night with 2:24 remaining in the third quarter, shortly after pulling up and stopping when he turned to run to the defensive end. He called for the medical staff as he reached for the calf, and quickly went to the locker room after play was stopped.
Coach Jason Kidd said he planned to sit Doncic the rest of the game after he played the entire third quarter, which is part of his normal rotation. He had also played all of the first quarter and part of the second, also the norm.
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Among several ominous signs for the Mavericks was this: When he left with the injury, Doncic was leading the Mavericks in points (26), assists (nine) and rebounds (eight). He still was at game’s end.
“Hopefully it’s not too serious,” said Kidd, who said he hadn’t met with Doncic or the head of the club’s medical staff, Casey Smith, before talking to reporters after the game.
The fourth-seeded Mavericks could have moved up a spot, but needed New Orleans to beat Golden State when the Pelicans were sitting several regulars. The Warriors won 128-107.
The Spurs were already locked in to the final spot in the Western Conference play-in tournament as the 10th seed, set to play at ninth-seeded New Orleans on Wednesday. The winner plays the loser between No. 7 Minnesota and the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers.
“I can’t wait,” said Keldon Johnson, who led the Spurs with 24 points. “I feel like it’s time for us to prove some stuff. I feel like everybody’s got that mindset, and we all know we can do it as long as we do it together.”
Doncic would have been serving a one-game suspension against the Spurs if the NBA hadn’t rescinded his 16th technical foul, assessed two nights earlier when he complained to officials about a non-call in a blowout victory over Portland.
With the league’s third-leading scorer cleared to play, Kidd said before the game his club was treating it as “the last dress rehearsal before the real season starts.”
Now Kidd will have to deal with questions about why Doncic was on the court with the Pelicans trailing by double digits in New Orleans and having no incentive to rally.
“We weren’t playing the New Orleans score,” Kidd said. “We were just trying to get better with the long layoff.”
Dorian Finney-Smith scored all of his 16 points in the third quarter, when Dallas broke a 59-59 halftime tie by outscoring San Antonio 38-23. The Mavericks held on in the fourth quarter with a lineup filled by players not in the rotation.
The Mavericks won all four games against San Antonio, sweeping the season series from their Texas rivals for the first time.
Spurs: G Lonnie Walker IV sat with lower back tightness a night after leading the Spurs with 24 points in a loss to Golden State. ... Dejounte Murray scored 17 points after missing the previous five games with a non-COVID-19 illness. ... Josh Richardson scored 18 points against his former team. ... Jakob Poeltl had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Mavericks: C Dwight Powell set a club record with 18 consecutive shots made over four games. Coming into the season, Powell shared the previous record of 14 with DeAndre Jordan and Erick Dampier. He broke the record with his first bucket before the run ended on his fifth attempt when he couldn’t convert an alley-oop pass from Jalen Brunson. He finished 5 of 6 and scored 12 points. ... F Maxi Kleber missed his fourth consecutive game with right ankle soreness, but Kidd said he would be ready for the playoffs.
IT WAS FUNNY AT THE TIME
Before the game, Kidd discussed with reporters how he might try to help Doncic manage his issues with technicals. Kidd was under the impression players get six techs before a suspension in the playoffs. After being informed it was actually seven, Kidd said, “I’m telling him six.”