Luka Doncic Ankle Injury: What’s Next for the Mavs?

Mavericks' Luka Doncic comes up limping after injuring his ankle.

Getty Mavericks' Luka Doncic comes up limping after injuring his ankle.

Second-year Mavericks guard Luka Doncic has done just about everything this season. He’s had four 40-point games, including two that were part of triple-doubles, he’s had eight total triple-doubles and he’s vaulted the Mavericks into unexpected territory—they are the No. 3 team in the West at this point.

He also had a streak of 20 points, five rebounds and five assists that had run to 20 in a row. That was the most in league history, breaking Michael Jordan’s record of 18.

The most important thing Doncic has done, though, has been to stay healthy as he has carried such a weighty load for the Mavs. Until Saturday at home against Miami, at least, when Doncic went down with an ankle sprain less than two minutes into the start of the game.

Doncic was driving to the rim and badly rolled his right ankle after it appeared he stepped on the foot of Miami’s Kendrick Nunn. The crowd at American Airlines Center watched in stunned silence as Dallas’ medical staff attended to Doncic.

Eventually, Doncic was taken, hopping on his left foot, for X-rays, which were negative. According to ESPN, Doncic’s injury was diagnosed as only a moderately sprained ankle. A source with knowledge of the situation told that Doncic probably will be out for at least 10 days, when the Mavs play the Spurs on December 26.

It’s possible, though, that Dallas could keep Doncic out for the remainder of the calendar year. After the home game against San Antonio, the Mavs go on the road for three games, against the Warriors, Lakers and Thunder.

That would be eight games missed for Doncic, seven against teams in playoff contention. If Dallas managed to go 4-4 in that stretch, it would count as a triumph.

The only official update from coach Rick Carlisle was that Doncic will at least miss Monday’s game against Milwaukee.

Dallas did rally in the game against the Heat, despite trailing by as many as 24 points after Doncic’s injury. The comeback came mostly thanks to Tim Hardaway Jr., who had 28 points on 11-for-22 shooting. Kristaps Porzingis struggled, shooting 7-for-21 from the field and scoring 22 points.

Tough Road Ahead for Mavs Without Luka Doncic

The Mavericks, of course, are built entirely around Doncic, who is the primary reason the team is near the top of the conference now. He is averaging 30.4 points, 9.9 rebounds and 9.4 assists, putting him into the MVP discussion with the likes of James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo. He is third in the league in usage rate (35.9) behind those two.

Without Doncic, Hardaway Jr. will be expected to carry a heavier load. He said he is ready for that.

“Next man up,” Hardaway told reporters on Saturday. “Luka obviously is a huge, huge part of this organization and this team. To see him go down is not easy to see. We’ll just try to figure things out. … I don’t know what’s going on right now. Hopefully, he’s back soon, but for now, it’s next man up.”

Hardaway has been decidedly inconsistent this season. He has had six games of 20-plus points but has had nine games in which he failed to crack double-digits in scoring.

The same can be said for Kristaps Porzingis, who was brought to Dallas to ease the load Doncic must carry in scoring. Porzingis is averaging 16.8 points this season, but in his last nine games, he is shooting 35.8 percent from the field and 25.0 percent from the 3-point line.

It’s likely that backup point guard Jalen Brunson will be the starter in place of Doncic. Expect Maxi Kleber, who had a season-high 17 points on Saturday, to get more playing time in Doncic’s absence, too.

The timing of Doncic’s injury could not have been much worse for Dallas. The game against Miami was the first of five straight against the top teams in the Eastern Conference. After the Bucks on Monday, the Mavs have Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto—the five teams have a combined record of 97-32.

READ NEXT: As Luka Doncic Shines, Examining the Mavericks’ Trade Options

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