Somewhat recently, Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic sprained his ankle, and missed five games (he sprained his ankle a few minutes into a game, so I’m counting that as a missed game). All of social media and ESPN, people were wondering how bad they would do in the two weeks without him, especially since the Mavs had an unlucky five game stretch where they played 5 of the top 6 teams in the Eastern Conference. But they did not have to worry.
In the game against the Miami Heat, which was the game Luka sprained his ankle, the Mavs only lost by 4 in overtime. It was a 20-point game at halftime, but a huge comeback, led by Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Kristaps Porzingis, pushed the game to overtime. The Mavericks lost by four in OT.
Two days later, the Mavericks played reigning MVP Giannis and the Milwaukee Bucks, in Milwaukee. The Mavs broke the Bucks 18 game winning streak with a four point win. KP had 26 and 12, and Seth Curry added 26 points off the bench. The Mavs made 16 threes, shooting 39% from beyond the arc.
They then lost to Boston by 6, beat Philadelphia by 19, then ended the Luka-less run with a major collapse against the Raptors, giving up a 30 point lead. They only went 2-3 without Luka, but that was against a group of contenders in the Eastern Conference. And the main takeaway from these five games are KP and THJ.
Kristaps averaged 22.4 ppg and 11.5 rpg without Luka. Technically, KP does do better without Luka than with Luka. But anytime someone starts playing with a superstar, they will do worse than before. Most times. But through the first couple months of the season, there were questions whether KP was the same player after the leg injury, and those five games answered that question. KP does take a back seat when Luka is getting a triple double, but they now know they can count on KP if Luka is injured or having a bad game.
Another takeaway is Tim Hardaway, Jr., and whether he can play without Luka. I don’t have the exact numbers, but about half of Hardaway’s three pointers are assists from Luka. Luka pretty much sets THJ up for a lot of the buckets he gets. Throughout the season, THJ usually gets about 7 open shots per game, half of those being threes. But in those five games Luka missed, he got about 10 open shots per game, including five open threes. That shows the even if Luka isn’t in the game, Hardaway is still able to get open shots, and knock them down. THJ averaged 5 more points without Luka than he does with Luka.
Most NBA fans, before Luka missed those games, knew the Mavericks were a good team that had an MVP candidate and a great coach. But we weren’t quite ready to call them a contender yet. There are still people who wouldn’t call the Mavs a contender, myself included. But what we cannot deny is that Luka sitting out those five game gave the whole team and organization reasons to be confident in their abilities as a whole team.
(P/C: Business Insider)