fbpx

Mavericks welcome back Luka Doncic against Thunder

Sportsnaut
Dec 21, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) watches from the team bench during the first quarter of the game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Minnesota Timberwolves at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 21, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) watches from the team bench during the first quarter of the game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Minnesota Timberwolves at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks have been able to keep treading water without star Luka Doncic.

But when the Mavericks face the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road Sunday, they’ll be able to start to find a way to move forward with their star.

After missing the last 10 games, first with left ankle soreness and then due to the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, Doncic has been cleared to return against the Thunder.

And Doncic isn’t the only Dallas player returning from protocols. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Maxi Kleber, who have each missed the last six games, have also cleared protocols for the game.

The Mavericks have gone 5-5 without Doncic, including Friday’s 112-96 win in Sacramento.

“We compete. We fight. We’re in games,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. “It’s just a matter of does the ball bounce, do we get a stop or do we make a shot.”

The stretch without Doncic began with a 103-84 win in Oklahoma City, a game in which Jalen Brunson led the Mavericks with 18 points.

Brunson’s play has been a big reason why Dallas has been able to stay afloat. Brunson is averaging 21 points and 7.4 assists over the last 10 games. He was averaging 14.3 points and 4.8 assists over his first 24 games.

“My mindset stays the same,” Brunson said. “The role may change, the minutes may change, but the mindset stays the same. Go out there, be aggressive, be confident, play my game. Really nothing changes as far as the mindset part. We want to get him (Doncic) back and healthy.”

While the Mavericks get their star point guard back, the Thunder appear to be losing theirs as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City’s leading scorer, was placed in the health and safety protocols Saturday and listed as out.

Gilgeous-Alexander joins Darius Bazley, Tre Mann and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl in the protocols.

Oklahoma City did get one measure of good news, with rookie Josh Giddey — who leads the Thunder in rebounds and assists — exiting the protocols.

Oklahoma City is coming off a 95-80 home win over the New York Knicks on Friday, a game in which the Thunder held the Knicks to a season-low 19.5 percent from beyond the arc while shooting 41.9 percent on 3-pointers — their third-best percentage this season.

Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault also remains in protocols and has missed the last two games as Mike Wilks has taken over.

“I think everyone loves Mike Wilks,” Thunder guard Ty Jerome said. “He just has the perfect balance of when to talk to you, when to leave you alone. He’s always encouraging people.

“If you need something, you ask Mike Wilks.”

The Mavericks still have plenty of other players in protocols — Trey Burke, Willie Cauley-Stein, Brandon Knight, Boban Marjanovic, JaQuori McLaughlin and Isaiah Thomas all are listed as being out due to protocols. Frank Ntilikina, who didn’t play Friday in Sacramento, is questionable with a left thigh contusion.

Sunday’s game is the last of a five-game road trip for Dallas.

–Field Level Media