Just hours after he was named an All-Star starter, Luka Doncic suffered a sprained left ankle in the Dallas Mavericks’ 99-95 win over the Suns in Phoenix on Thursday night.
The All-Star selection is the 23-year-old Doncic’s fourth of his career. He joins Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, Isiah Thomas, and Anthony Davis as the only players to earn four All-Star nods before their 24th birthday in the history of the NBA.
However, the injury overshadowed Doncic’s latest accolade. It happened when Doncic accidentally stepped on a Suns defender’s foot while pivoting early into the game.
Dallas called a timeout with 8:39 remaining in the first quarter to take Doncic out of the game. He limped to the locker room with Mavericks director of player health and performance Casey Smith.
The team announced after the first quarter that Doncic would not return.
Spencer Dinwiddie stepped up in Doncic’s absence, pouring in a season-high 36 points on 10 of 18 shooting, including 5 of 6 on three-pointers. He made 11 free throws and also added six rebounds and nine assists.
Dinwiddie made difficult shots all night, including banking in a three-pointer that put Dallas up 95-86 with 3:32 remaining.
Phoenix guard Chris Paul made a layup with 19.7 seconds left to cut his team’s deficit to 96-95. But the Mavericks shut the door on the Suns when Dwight Powell got fouled after making an offensive rebound and sank his two free throws with 12 seconds remaining.
WHAT TO KNOW
— Doncic’s early injury gave the Mavericks a very valid reason to lose on the road and continue their five losses in six games skid.
— Instead, Dinwiddie’s hot shooting night, and Dorian Finney-Smith’s 18 points and 12 rebounds, his first double-double of the season, helped Dallas snap Phoenix’s four-game winning streak. Powell added 15 points and four rebounds.
— The win also helps Dallas (26-24) gain a game of separation on Phoenix (25-25) in the crowded Western Conference standings.
— The Mavericks were 0-5 in games without Doncic this season, but Thursday night’s win will not be recorded as the team’s first without him since the 23-year-old started the game.
— The game will be recorded as Doncic’s new career-low scoring output in a game. He had zero points and one rebound when the injury occurred.
— Doncic’s previous career-low was two points against the Miami Heat on December 14, 2019, when he sprained his right ankle two minutes into the game.
— X-rays on Doncic’s ankle were negative, and coach Jason Kidd said he looked in “good spirits” after the game. The injury is being called a “mild sprain,” and Doncic will reportedly be day-to-day.
BY THE NUMBERS
— Dallas’ defense held the opponent below 100 points for only the second time since December 21 in Minnesota.
— The Mavericks had lost six straight against the Suns in the regular season, though they beat Phoenix in the Western Conference semifinals in last year’s playoffs.
— On a negative note, Doncic’s zero-point outing dethrones him as the league’s leading scorer. His scoring average went down from 33.8 points per game to 33.0, now second to Philadelphia 76ers’ center Joel Embiid’s 33.4 points per game.
— Cam Johnson and Paul led the Suns with 22 points apiece, and Deandre Ayton scored 19 points and grabbed 20 rebounds but made just 6 of 20 shots. Paul added 10 assists.
— Kidd praised the team’s defense postgame: “It was the whole group defensively. To hold a team like Phoenix under 100 points is a big deal. The guys in that locker room should be proud.”
— Dinwiddie explained how his game changes without Doncic: “It’s just a shift in mindset in understanding the volume’s going to come and I’ve got to be more aggressive.”
— Dallas will stay on the road to face the Utah Jazz on Saturday night.
Donicic’s is a good basketball player but he has to share the ball. Cuban need to let Jason Kid Coach. I think the Maverick have a good staff on the floor but Cuban wants Donicic to be the only super star.
Will never win another trophy, if only one player control’s the ball. These guys won because they played defense and if they didn’t have a good shot they passed the ball to another player. It’s a team Cuban or players will leave.