Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic reportedly will miss Thursday’s Game 3 against the Utah Jazz (9:30 ET, TNT) as he continues to recover from a left calf strain.
Luka Dončić (left calf strain) is out for Game 3 in Utah.
Tim Hardaway Jr. (left foot surgery) and Frank Ntilikina (illness recovery) will remain out.
— Mavs PR (@MavsPR) April 21, 2022
The Mavericks reportedly expect Doncic to return for Game 4 on Saturday, according to veteran NBA writer Marc Stein.
Doncic has made considerable progress this week in his recovery from a left calf strain — partaking in more basketball activity Tuesday and Wednesday than initially hoped — but Dallas decides to wait until Game 4.
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) April 21, 2022
Mavericks coach Jason Kidd told reporters Thursday that a decision on Doncic playing in Game 3 would likely come around “game time” and after he has gone through his pregame warmups and conditioning.
Doncic spoke with reporters Wednesday, marking his first comments since he suffered the injury in Dallas’ regular season finale on April 10 vs. San Antonio. Doncic got up some shots as practice ended and appeared to be moving well, per Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News.
Doncic said he was “feeling good” and can see improvement in himself from when he first suffered the injury. However, he also said he will not play if there’s a risk of aggravating the injury.
“Today and yesterday I did a little bit. We shouldn’t rush anything, but step by step, I think I’m improving a lot, and I’m getting better,” he said.
“I don’t know if I’m going to be 100 percent. I think that’s tough right now. But if I’m ready and there’s no risk of (further) injury, I’ll be out there. I’m doing a lot of treatment, man. I’m tired of just laying down and doing treatment.”
Kidd sounded confident on Wednesday that Doncic is progressing and could be available to play soon.
“He’s doing the work that the medical staff has asked him to do, and there hasn’t been any setback,” Kidd said. “He feels great, so I think he just continues to come in with that good attitude that at some point, he’ll get that green light to play.”
Fueled by Jalen Brunson’s career-high 41 points, the Mavericks overcame Doncic’s absence as they drilled a team-record 22 3-pointers to even the series at 1-1 with a 110-104 victory in Game 2. Overall, the Mavs are 9 -10 this season without Doncic.
“I just miss basketball,” Doncic said. “I know it’s only been two games, but I miss it so much.”
When Game 3 tips off, it will be 11 days since Doncic strained his left calf when he was less than three minutes from going to the bench for good in what turned out to be a meaningless regular-season finale against San Antonio.
That’s roughly the recovery time for the mildest calf strain, known as grade one. Beyond that, the optimistic outlook is a month — about the amount of time Kevin Durant was sidelined when he ruptured his Achilles tendon in his first game back with Golden State in 2019.
This season, Doncic averaged 28.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.7 assists as he emerged as a Kia MVP candidate and led Dallas to its first 50-win season since 2014-15.
“We need Luka back. We want him back ASAP,” said Maxi Kleber after Game 2. “But obviously we want him back healthy so he stays healthy and helps us because we know he’s our best player.”
As Game 3 approaches, the Mavs are trying to reverse their history in Utah, where they are 24-73 all-time.
“You buy time for Luka to come back. It’s not rocket science,” said guard Spencer Dinwiddie, a trade-deadline acquisition who also gets thrown into a leadership role when Doncic is out. “We want to have him back and quickly and as healthy as possible. But we’re also focused on winning the series regardless.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.