Just when the Dallas Mavericks finally earned home-court advantage in the playoffs for the first time since winning the NBA title 11 years ago, they could face multiple games without their top player.
Star point guard Luka Doncic strained his left calf in the regular-season finale and didn’t practice all week leading into the Western Conference first-round opener against the Utah Jazz on Saturday. Doncic is listed as doubtful for Game 1.
Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Doncic will miss Game 1 and there is concern about his status for Game 2 as the team takes a day-to-day approach on the injury.
The Mavericks surged to the fourth seed by going 36-12 from New Year’s Eve on after a 16-18 start. The fifth-seeded Jazz finished 4-7 to fall below the Mavericks.
In a meeting that was crucial to Dallas catching Utah, Doncic scored 32 points in a 114-100 win while defensive stalwart Rudy Gobert and 3-point threat Bojan Bogdanovic sat for the Jazz.
Now the only NBA player to average at least 28 points, eight rebounds and eight assists could be sidelined while Utah, led by Donovan Mitchell, is close to full strength. Dallas hasn’t won a playoff series since the title season, losing in the first round six times.
“We prepared for Luka for this whole series,” Jazz guard Mike Conley said. “We prepared for what it would look like without him. They’re a team with a deep roster of guys who can make plays. They’ve shown they can do that over time.”
If Doncic doesn’t play, Spencer Dinwiddie and Jalen Brunson figure to be the first two scoring options for Dallas.
Dinwiddie, acquired from Washington in the trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to the Wizards, had his highest-scoring game with the Mavericks (36 points) the first time he played without Doncic.
Brunson, drafted in the second round the same year Dallas traded up for third overall pick Doncic in 2018, has been starting alongside the three-time All-Star most of the season after being his backup their first three years together.
A year after his role diminished as the series went along in a seven-game loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, Brunson could end up in a leadership position similar to his days at Villanova, where he won two NCAA championships in three years.
“I’m not really too worried about putting pressure on myself,” said Brunson, who averaged career bests of 16.3 points and 4.8 assists in the regular season. “I don’t see it as pressure. I see it as opportunity.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.