Luka watch: Despite reports Doncic will miss Game 1 vs. Jazz, Mavs keep the door open
The Jazz are preparing two game plans, one that includes Doncic and another that does not
On Thursday, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who suffered a calf strain in the final game of the regular season, is expected to miss Game 1 of the first round series against the Utah Jazz.
The Mavericks also practiced Thursday with head coach Jason Kidd addressing reporters afterward, though Kidd did not come right out and say that Doncic was going to miss Game 1.
“He’s progressing, he’s doing good, but he didn’t practice,” Kidd said of Doncic. “He’s smiling, he’s happy, he’s in good spirits and it looks like he’s improving.”
It’s no accident that Kidd is being vague or that the Dallas medical staff has yet to make a final decision while sources are clearly leaking information to national outlets. There’s gamesmanship in every move and every word during the NBA playoffs and this is no different.
At the very least, the Mavericks have forced the Jazz into preparing for two scenarios rather than one.
“We prepared for Luka for this whole series and we’ve prepared for what it would look like without him,” Mike Conley said after Jazz practice Thursday. “It doesn’t mean that we’re going to come into the game any less focused than we were had Luka played. It’ll be a dogfight regardless.”
Conley is right. Even a non-Doncic Mavs team is not going to provide an easy out. The Jazz narrowly defeated the Mavericks on Christmas Day with Doncic sidelined, and that was before the trade deadline when the Mavericks were not as good of a team as they are now.
The Mavericks have won five of the last six games that they played without Doncic, and have proven to be a lethal scoring team when Doncic is not on the floor, so there is no reason to let up.
There’s also the emotional component.
If the Mavericks are playing at home in front of their crowd and Doncic is watching in street clothes, the team is going to be motivated to take care of home court and not let Doncic’s absence mean that they get off on the wrong foot in this series.
All that being said, if Doncic does not play in Game 1 or even beyond, there will be even more expectations placed on the Jazz taking advantage of that opportunity.
Everyone will remember that the Jazz lost to the Los Angeles Clippers despite Kawhi Leonard being injured, but the Jazz were able to point to their own injuries in that instance. This time, the Jazz are healthy, and if Dallas doesn’t have its star player available, the Jazz need to capitalize.
Don’t expect to have a final determination of Doncic’s status before Saturday. The Mavericks will need to file their injury report with the league on Friday evening, but even then they could leave the door open, listing Doncic as “doubtful” or “questionable” with a final decision being made on game day.