Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic Navigates Knee Sprain Before Crucial Game 5 Against Clippers

As the Dallas Mavericks prepare to face the Los Angeles Clippers in a pivotal Game 5 matchup on Wednesday night, Luka Doncic continues to work through a right knee sprain.
Apr 28, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA;  Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) controls the ball as LA
Apr 28, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) controls the ball as LA / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES — As the Dallas Mavericks brace for a pivotal Game 5 against the Los Angeles Clippers, all eyes are on Luka Doncic. The Slovenian superstar is dealing with a challenging right knee sprain, yet he is expected to continue to play despite the injury.

Doncic suffered the injury during the first quarter of Game 3, which has visibly constrained his movement and effectiveness. Nonetheless, he remains committed to leading his team. He has played with his knee wrapped since and even had a new configuration of performance tape during the open viewing portion of Tuesday's practice.

Mavericks coach Jason Kidd commented on Doncic's resilience, saying, "He looked good in practice and did everything," communicating a probable injury designation for Game 5.

Apr 28, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA;  Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) controls the ball as LA
Apr 28, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) controls the ball as LA / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The series, currently deadlocked at 2-2, has been marked by significant injuries on both sides. Tim Hardaway Jr., a key player for Dallas, is questionable for Game 5 following a setback from an ankle sprain. Meanwhile, the Clippers will be without Kawhi Leonard, who is still battling knee issues, highlighting the physical demands of the series.

Despite these challenges, Doncic has maintained impressive averages of 29.9 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 8.5 assists per game. However, his shooting efficiency has declined, with a field goal percentage of 38.6% and just 26.5% from three-point range.

Given the Clippers' defensive schemes deployed throughout the series have emphasized preventing Doncic from attacking the rim by taking advantage of Dallas' expanded usage of non-shooting centers and rotation of weaker perimeter shooting wings, there's been an added difficulty for him to overcome inconsistent jump shooting results.

Acknowledging the need for improvement, Doncic stated, "I’m out there trying to play a lot of minutes, trying to play hard. But sometimes you don’t have the perfect situation, so you’ve just got to go through it and play better."

The sentiment of perseverance is palpable within the Mavericks, particularly after a heart-wrenching Game 4, where they rallied from a 31-point deficit only to fall short. Reflecting on the loss, Doncic shared his determination to support his teammates more effectively.

“I just got to help him more. I feel like I’m letting him down," Doncic said. "I got to be there. He’s giving everything he has. He’s been amazing for us the whole series.”

Kidd quickly offered reassurance, emphasizing that Doncic's efforts are crucial regardless of the outcome. The message expresses the continued belief that, at some point, Doncic will manage to find a rhythm showcasing the typical transcendent impact the team has relied on.

"He’s not letting anybody down. He’s playing," Kidd said. "You’re gonna make some shots; you’re gonna miss some shots. That’s just part of basketball."

Kyrie Irving, averaging 25.6 points, 5.2 assists, and 5.0 rebounds for the series, spoke about the team's spirit and Doncic's role, noting the widespread impact of injuries. Additionally, Irving highlighted the pressures Doncic is navigating in this series, given the history he has of facing the Clippers in two prior postseasons which resulted, in first-round exits.

"Everybody’s pretty much banged up. We don’t have time to kind of look at each other and ask if we’re OK," Irving said. "We’ve just got to be willing to put our bodies on the line. If he’s not good to go, then I’m sure he’ll sit out. But knowing him and knowing his confidence level and knowing how well he knows the Clippers, I know he wants to play well. And I know he wants to make a bigger impact than what he’s doing now — even though he’s almost averaging a triple-double for the series."

As the Mavericks prepare to face the Clippers in Los Angeles, their resilience and adaptability are being tested. Even with Leonard sidelined, Paul George and James Harden have proven capable of stepping up and leading their team to victory.

"The West is tough," Kidd noted. "You look at Denver, they were in a dogfight with the Lakers. The Lakers led at halftime of every game, came up short. It’s tough. There’s a lot of good teams — not just individual players — but there’s a lot of good teams in the Western Conference."

Game 5 is more than a playoff game for Doncic and the Mavericks; it's a test of their ability to overcome adversity and seize their opportunities.

"I think you’re gonna see a high-level chess match Game 5 in L.A.," Irving predicted. "I’m not thinking about stealing a game. I’m thinking about winning the game and finishing out the series. That’s just the focus right now."

Grant Afseth


Grant Afseth is a Dallas Mavericks reporter for MavericksGameday.com and an NBA reporter for NBA Analysis Network. He previously covered the Indiana Pacers and NBA for CNHI's Kokomo Tribune and various NBA teams for USA TODAY Sports Media Group. Follow him on Twitter (@grantafseth), Facebook (@grantgafseth), and YouTube (@grantafseth). You can reach Grant at grantafseth35@gmail.com.