Luka Doncic is a bit banged up, but he won’t be missing Game 4 between the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers with a cervical strain. Doncic reportedly complained of pain in his neck and down his left arm after Friday’s Game 3 loss to the Clippers, but the All-Star is expected to play Sunday despite the injury, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The Mavericks lead this series 2-1, thanks largely to Doncic’s excellence. He dominated the Clippers in a six-game loss in the first round last season, but has taken things up a notch by averaging 38 points, 9.0 assists and 8.7 rebounds per game on just under 52 percent shooting for the series. The Clippers geared their defense towards stopping Doncic’s teammates in Game 3, and only three of them reached double-figures as scorers. Dallas lost despite Doncic’s 44 points because none of his teammates could even reach 15 points.
Doncic has been very durable this year, playing in 66 of 72 regular-season games for the Mavericks. Dallas went 2-4 without him this season, and they played surprisingly well when he went to the bench, outscoring opponents by 0.9 points per 100 possessions in minutes he sat out. The Mavericks typically have one of the NBA‘s stronger benches, and this one, led by Jalen Brunson, has managed to keep the Mavericks afloat without their best player.
But the playoffs are a different animal, and the Clippers are too good for the Mavericks to beat without Doncic. Game 3 turned into a battle of the stars, and the Clippers won because Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were too much for Doncic to overcome alone. Now that he’s suiting up for Game 4, it’ll make it much harder for the Clippers to tie this series.