Mavs Overcome Luka’s Injury Scare, Rally Past Thunder Behind Doncic’s Heroics

John Furrier | Last Updated : April 29, 2024

DALLAS, TX – Just when it looked like the Dallas Mavericks’ playoff hopes were about to be dealt a devastating blow, Luka Doncic simply would not let his team’s season slip away. The superstar guard turned in another legendary performance, overcoming an injury scare to will the Mavericks to a critical 109-103 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night.

With Dallas clinging to a one-point lead late in the fourth quarter, Doncic went down in a heap after his left ankle appeared to roll gruesomely underneath him while driving to the basket. He had to be helped off the floor, appearing to be in severe pain as the American Airlines Center went deathly silent.

However, just minutes later, Doncic stunned everyone by emerging from the locker room and immediately reinserting himself back into the game. The 24-year-old seemed no worse for wear, draining a cold-blooded step-back three-pointer to extend the Mavs’ advantage before putting the finishing touches on another sublime outing.

“As soon as that ankle rolled, I thought the worst,” said Mavericks coach Jason Kidd. “You hold your breath in those situations. But Luka’s a warrior and somehow was able to walk it off. His toughness and will to win is just unbelievable.”  

When it was all said and done, Doncic recorded his 16th triple-double of the season, finishing with 38 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in Dallas’ biggest win of the year. His heroics enabled the Mavericks to pull within two games of the Thunder for the final Play-In Tournament spot in the Western Conference with five games remaining.

“I rolled it pretty bad and went back and re-taped it up,” a hobbling Doncic explained. “No way I was missing the end of this game.”

Dallas seemed to be letting a golden opportunity slip away after jumping out to a double-digit lead in the second quarter. The Thunder came charging back behind a barrage of three-pointers from the red-hot Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who eclipsed the 30-point mark for an 11th straight game.  

Oklahoma City gained its first lead since the opening minutes on Josh Giddey’s layup in the final minute of the third quarter. With Doncic still grimacing on the sideline getting treatment, the Thunder looked primed to land a knockout blow to the Mavs’ fading playoff hopes in the fourth.  

But after a stagnant stretch by the Dallas offense through the first few minutes of the final period, Tim Hardaway Jr. finally stemmed the tide with a crucial transition three-pointer, igniting an 11-0 Mavs run to regain control.  

Then, just seconds after Thunder rookie Jalen Williams drained a triple to knot the score at 98 apiece, back came Doncic from the locker room, ready to author one final signature act of sheer force and determination.

The superstar picked up right where he left off, patiently dissecting Oklahoma City’s switching scheme to find Dwight Powell for a pair of easy buckets to push Dallas back in front. After a stop at the other end, Doncic made the biggest play of the night – a vintage step-back three-pointer from the wing to give the Mavs a five-point cushion, sending the crowd into pandemonium.

“That shot was nothing but pure will,” said Hardaway, who finished with 25 points. “Pure championship will. Luka just wasn’t going to be stopped, even after rolling his ankle. It inspired all of us to keep fighting.”

OKC kept fighting to the final buzzer and twice pulled within one possession thanks to more unconscious shotmaking from Gilgeous-Alexander. But Doncic kept making plays on both ends of the floor, finding Hardaway for a backbreaking corner three, then stripping Giddey on the final defensive possession before sinking a pair of free throws to finally put it away.

“I don’t know what those kids made of, but it’s something more than the rest of us,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said of Doncic. “His ability to just take over games is something you rarely see. He reminded everyone tonight why he’s one of the special ones.”

Gilgeous-Alexander did his part to keep Oklahoma City’s Play-In bid on track, pouring in 37 points on 12-of-22 shooting while adding 5 assists and 5 rebounds. But the supporting cast couldn’t quite make enough winning plays down the stretch to steal a victory.

Giddey nearly triple-doubled with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists, but also committed 7 costly turnovers. First-time All-Star Jalen Williams chipped in 17 points, including a pair of huge threes in the final minutes before Doncic sent the Thunder to another dispiriting loss in the Lone Star state.    

While Oklahoma City still clings to the 10th seed out West for now, every game feels more high-leverage as the streaking Mavericks find their top gear. Winners of six of their last seven, Dallas continued zipping back into the Play-In picture behind Doncic’s tour-de-force performance.

“Our mentality is don’t leave any doubt, just go take it,” said Doncic. “We know what’s at stake here. We can’t afford a single misstep the rest of the way. I’m going to be ready to lay it all on the line again on Saturday, that’s for sure.”

Indeed, the 24-year-old sensation looked every bit the equal of greats like Michael Jordan and LeBron James with his refusal to let an injury derail his quest for late-season glory. Doncic played the final few minutes essentially on one good ankle, but willed his way through the agony in pursuit of victory.

While he’ll surely have to deal with swelling and treatment over the next couple days, there’s no doubting Doncic’s willingness to risk it all as the Mavericks continue their quixotic sprint to crash the postseason party.

“I’ve said it before but it bears repeating, we’ve got one of the most unstoppable players in this league when he’s locked in like that,” praised Hardaway. “As long as we have Luka and he keeps playing with that type of passion and purpose, anything is possible for us.”

With their leader suiting up for war every night, the Mavs are determined to leave themselves no regrets as this rollercoaster campaign reaches its home stretch. Thanks to Doncic’s latest peerless performance, the playoff dream remains alive and well in Dallas. Just another day at the office for a generational superstar breaking new ground with each passing game.

John Furrier

John Furrier is a techie with expertise in BlockChain, eCommerce. He has been working on the cutting-edge of technology for over 10 years. His work has earned him recognition as an emerging leader in this field for various magazines. He lives to break new ground and find ways to make things more efficient for his clients. John believes that “Successful people are always looking for creative solutions.”

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