Doncic injury puts playoff status in doubt as Mavs top Spurs

DALLAS (AP) — Luka Doncic wouldn’t even have played in what turned out to be a meaningless regular-season finale for the Dallas Mavericks who were headed to the playoffs without a breather from the NBA.

The superstar was minutes away from finishing the night against San Antonio when he hurt his left calf. Now the Mavericks are waiting to see when, maybe even if, their 23-year-old All-Star will play in a first-round series against Utah beginning Saturday.

Doncic snapped Dallas’ 130-120 victory Sunday night with 2:24 remaining in the third quarter, shortly after stopping when he turned to run to the defensive end. He called medical personnel 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 out for the rest of the game after he played the entire third quarter, which is part of his normal rotation. He had also played the entire first quarter and part of the second, also the norm.

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 was still at the end of the game.

“Hopefully it’s not too serious,” said Kidd, who said he had not met with Doncic or the club’s chief medical officer, Casey Smith, before speaking to reporters after the game.

The fourth-seeded Mavericks could have moved up a spot, but they needed New Orleans to beat Golden State when the Pelicans were sitting down with several regulars. The Warriors won 128-107.

The Spurs were already locked into the final spot in the Western Conference play-in tournament as the 10th seed, set to play 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 things. I feel like everyone has 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Doncic would have been serving a one-game suspension against the Spurs had the NBA not rescinded his 16th technical foul, assessed two nights earlier when he complained to referees about a no-call in a blowout win over Portland.

The Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic (77) reaches for his lower leg after sustaining an unknown lower leg injury in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, the Sunday April 10, 2022 in Dallas.

With the league’s third leading scorer cleared to play, Kidd said before the game that 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 figures in New Orleans and with no incentive to bounce back.

“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 tie at halftime by outscoring San Antonio 38-23. The Mavericks held on in the fourth quarter with a lineup full of players who weren’t in the rotation.

The Mavericks won all four games against San Antonio, sweeping the season series from rival Texas for the first time.

TIPS

Spurs: G Lonnie Walker IV sat with a tight lower back one 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 an illness other than COVID-19. … 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 in four games. Going 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 failed to convert an alley-oop pass from Jalen Brunson. He finished 5 for 6 and scored 12 points. … F Maxi Kleber missed his fourth straight game with sore right ankle, but Kidd said he would be ready for the playoffs.

IT WAS FUN AT THE TIME

Before the game, Kidd discussed with reporters how he might try to help Doncic deal with his technical issues. Kidd was under the impression that players have six coaches before a playoff suspension. After being informed that there were actually seven, Kidd said, “I’m going to tell you six.”

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