Andrew Lopez | ESPNReading: 4 min.
NEW ORLEANS – Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic walked slowly into the postgame press room Wednesday night and gingerly took a seat at the podium.
He had walked away from his team’s 113-106 loss at New Orleans in the third quarter with a left thigh strain, something that has been bothering him for some time.
When asked how the thigh felt, Doncic chuckled: “Not good.”
Doncic said he would undergo an MRI on Thursday to determine the severity of the injury. Doncic had mentioned thigh pain when he spoke to reporters after Saturday’s game against the Phoenix Suns, but he said Wednesday the injury has lingered longer.
“I think it was the second game after the All-Star break,” Doncic said. “Something like that.”
The Mavs’ second game after the All-Star break was against the San Antonio Spurs, a 142-116 victory for Dallas. Doncic said he woke up the morning after the game and his thigh hurt.
“I don’t think so, because I usually get hit in the thigh,” Doncic said when asked if he’s had an injury like this before. “I didn’t get hit. So this is a bit strange to me. I don’t really know what it is.”
Asked when it affected him the most, Doncic replied: “Just getting my rhythm. Running. I can feel it mainly on jump shots because I need both legs. So it’s been really hard for me.”
On the possession leading up to his departure Wednesday night, Doncic attempted a 15-foot jumper from the left side that hit the back of the rim. He jogged slowly down the court in pain and left the game at the next interruption, with 2:29 remaining in the third quarter.
Doncic said he felt fine in the first quarter but noticed the injury worsening as the game progressed.
In the three games that followed the game against San Antonio on February 23, Doncic performed at his usual level, shooting 53.6% from the field during a streak that culminated in a game of 42 points and 12 assists against the Philadelphia 76ers on March 2
But in Doncic’s two most recent games before Wednesday, against the Suns and then against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, he was a combined 18-for-46 from the floor and 5-for-20 from 3-point range.
Against the Pelicans, Doncic was 4-for-14 overall and 1-for-5 from deep. He attempted just two shots during the third quarter before retiring. He also missed all five of his shot attempts in the second quarter, the most he has missed in any quarter all season.
Wednesday also marked Doncic’s first straight game since Dec. 5-6.
Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said the thigh was clearly bothering Doncic when he was forced to leave the game.
“Yeah, I think we can all see that he’s not moving well,” Kidd said. “Shooting, defense, it’s affecting everything. He’s trying to fight and help his teammates, but he had to come out. Let’s hope it’s not something serious. We have a couple of days here before we play Memphis, so hopefully he’ll come back soon”.
The Mavs play the Grizzlies on Saturday.
Also troubling for Doncic: He committed his 15th technical foul with 4:51 left in the first quarter. One more technique would trigger an automatic game suspension.
“I think we all know, he knows too, that he’s one away from suspension,” Kidd said. “So it has to be better. But we all have to be better. We all complain about calls during the game. The refs can see some, miss some. It’s all part of the game. But we all have to be better.”
Doncic said he’s “trying to be better” when it comes to talking to officials and technical fouls, but he also knows what’s at stake.
“For me, it’s hard,” Doncic said. “It’s just the passion of trying to win games. But for sure, I have to get better.”