Turns out, there was some extra motivation on Tuesday night against the Clippers for Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who had been out for three games with an ankle sprain. His father, Serbian hoops great Sasa Doncic, was in the crowd at Staples Center.
He saw a doozy of a game, an overtime win for the Mavericks that put an end to a three-game Luka-free losing streak. Doncic struggled some with his shooting—he was 9-for-21 from the field—but he brought the trademark passion and fire the Mavs had so sorely missed in his absence.
And his dad got to see it.
“It’s always special,” Doncic said about playing in front of Sasa. “I wanted to play this game really bad. That’s why I gotta say the medical staff did a great job. Everybody helped me every day and we made it happen.”
Doncic nearly had a triple-double in the game, with nine rebounds and nine assists. But the most impressive number might have been the minutes he played in his first game since November 15.
“I was tired,” Doncic said. “Overtime in the first game back, it was tough. But you know, we got a win and that’s all that matters. So, I was happy.”
Mavs coach Jason Kidd wasn’t hearing complaints about minutes on this night, not with the Mavs so badly in need of a win.
“He only played 41,” Kidd said, smiling, in his postgame press conference. “He’s 22.”
Doncic Was Determined to Play on Tuesday
Doncic did say in the morning at shootaround that he was determined to play on Tuesday. The Clippers have been the Mavericks’ biggest rival in Doncic’s short time in the NBA, having beaten Dallas in tense series in the past two postseasons. Doncic has also played particularly well at the Staples Center, the Clippers’ home arena.
“Really happy to back, you know,” Doncic said. “I know it has only been three days but like I said in the morning, we will do everything possible to play the game. I felt great after I woke up from my nap, and I was just ready to go.”
Kidd was impressed at the major development he has been pushing Doncic to make all season—deciding when to force his way to the basket and figuring out when to trust his teammates.
“He understands and has a great feel when he knows he has two (defenders) on him,” Kidd said, “he trusts—there was a big trust tonight that the other guys were gonna make plays. We were playing 4-on-3 at times and that shows how confident and how much he trusts his teammates. There are going to be times in the game where he knows he is going to try to beat that double-team. I thought he did a great job in the balance tonight of attacking and then also just accepting the double-team.”
Doncic Torches Clippers Rival Mann
Doncic also used the occasion to once again go at it with Clippers guard Terance Mann, who has become something of a personal rival. Doncic has repeatedly trash-talked Mann in past matchups, and was hit with a technical foul in the first quarter on Tuesday after bullying into the paint against Mann, hitting a short flip shot and getting into Mann’s face.
Mann had only seven points and fouled out of the game after 19 minutes. It was classic Luka: