Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic is officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s Game 4 due to a sprained left ankle that caused him to exit Friday night’s 130-122 loss to the LA Clippers in the fourth quarter.
Coach Rick Carlisle said he anticipates that the Mavs will not know whether Doncic is available until minutes before Sunday afternoon’s tipoff.
“I believe that this is going to be most likely a game-time decision type of situation, but I can’t tell you the exact timing,” Carlisle said Saturday afternoon. “He is not doing anything on the floor today. It’s treatment, and we’re trying to get him an MRI.”
Doncic was scheduled to get an MRI on Saturday morning, but Carlisle said there was an issue with the MRI machine at the NBA’s Walt Disney World campus in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, that the team was trying to get resolved.
Game 4 is at 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday. The Clippers, the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, have a 2-1 lead over the seventh-seeded Mavs in the first-round NBA playoff series.
“We’ve got to measure a lot of things relative to how he’s feeling, what the diagnostic test looks like and what our trainers feel,” Carlisle said. “We’ll see. I wish I knew right now, but I don’t. Tonight’s a big night in terms of how he feels in the morning.”
Doncic went down after rolling his ankle while defending Kawhi Leonard on a drive to the basket with 3:58 left in the third quarter. He immediately grabbed his left ankle, and after being helped to his feet, Doncic hopped on his right foot off the floor and up the tunnel.
After getting the ankle re-taped, Doncic returned at the beginning of the fourth quarter and was clearly hobbled before exiting with 9:02 left. The Mavs announced minutes later that Doncic would not return.
“It’s not that bad,” said Doncic, who missed a total of 11 games this season due to twice spraining his right ankle. “Honestly, I had luck it’s my left ankle. It’s not my right. It’s a little sprained. We’ll know more [Saturday].”
Carlisle said Doncic, who gingerly limped up the tunnel after the loss with an ice pack wrapped around his ankle, will have significant input on whether he plays along with Dallas director of player health and performance Casey Smith, who is primarily responsible for the 21-year-old All-Star’s treatment.
“He plays hurt on a pretty regular basis. We do not want him to play injured, though,” Carlisle said. “That’s a different situation. You’re bringing greater risk into it. But we’ll see. We’ll see where things are tomorrow. The quick turnaround presents more challenges, but we’ll see. In some ways, it’s what we can do to help make the situation better, and in some ways, you’re dealing with Mother Nature.”
Doncic averaged 35.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 8.0 assists while the Mavs and Clippers split the first two games of the series. He had 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in Game 3, becoming the third-youngest player in NBA history to record a playoff triple-double, behind only Magic Johnson and LeBron James.
Carlisle said Doncic did not aggravate the sprain by playing a few minutes to begin the fourth quarter. After evaluating Doncic and re-taping his ankle, Smith informed Carlisle that Doncic wanted to return to the game, but it was quickly apparent that Doncic’s mobility was significantly compromised.
Doncic gestured to the Dallas bench that he needed to exit the game. He knocked over his chair in frustration before returning to the locker room area with Smith.
“I just wanted to get in,” said Doncic, who was 4-of-14 from the field in the loss. “We still had a chance to win and to help my teammates. Obviously, I could still run a little bit, but I couldn’t push off my left leg, so it was better to go out and to let somebody else play.”