NBA

Luca Doncic returns in Dallas Mavericks win over Clippers

The Slovenian star looked like he had never missed a game on Tuesday night.

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Luka Doncic returned for the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night, as the held on for a dramatic 112-104 overtime win against the Los Angeles Clippers

After being a doubt, the former rookie of the year was back in action and it was like he had never left.

Luka Doncic returns for a Mavericks win

Having been out for the last three games with knee and ankle injuries, Luka Doncic could be forgiven the smile that he gave coach Jason Kidd post game. The two time All-Star had just played his first game since injury and posted an impressive 41 minutes. It was clear from the start that Doncic was back to his his old ways as he drained 3-pointers on the Clippers. Indeed he almost finished with a triple-double as he seemed to be out rightly enjoying himself on court. In the end Doncic had 26 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists as the Mavericks held firm against a frantic surge from Clippers clinch the win 112-104 in overtime. "I was tired," Doncic said as he laughed. "And overtime in the first game back, it was tough. But we got a win. That's all that matters. I was happy."

Having not played in the Mavs' loss to the Clippers on Sunday, Doncic was a last minute decision on Tuesday. For his part he insisted he was was ready to go after his game-day afternoon nap. As is the case with the Slovenian, there was no delay before he got into his rhythm. He also didn't gave no quarter to the opposition, picking up a technical foul in the first quarter for trash talking Terrence Mann.

On the night, Doncic shot 9-for-21 from the field and 4-for-11 from 3-point range even though he was constantly double-teamed throughout the game. "I mean mentally, I was really happy to be back," he said. "I miss basketball. I know it's only been three [games], but I will do everything possible to play the game. I felt great after I woke up from my nap. I was just ready to go."

Doncic in, Bruson out while Clippers and Mavericks go at it

While the Mavericks got Doncic back, they lost another point guard, as Jalen Brunson was limited to 11 minutes after injuring his foot. As has been the case in a number of the Mavs' meetings with the Clippers across the last two seasons, there was a frenetic pace to the game as well as a comeback. Questioned on the reasons behind the intense rivalry between the two teams, Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. was open. "When you beat somebody enough, you leave a bad taste in their mouth. Now they want to play against you a lot."

Morris, who himself recently returned having been sidelined for the last 15 games with a knee problem, admitted that the games are out right battles, the officials make sure to keep the peace after some clashes with Doncic. "The refs are on my ass, so I can't even talk to Luka," Morris said. "I can't even like breathe on him. So that kind of like, makes it a little bit now where it's corny. But it's still competition."

How did the Mavericks hold out against the Clippers?

On Tuesday night Dallas, Dallas found themselves in a somehwat comfortable position with the 4th quarter coming to an end. They were leading 102-92 with 1:30 on the clock. Little did they know, the Clippers had other intentions. Scoring 11 of the final 12 points of the quarter along with a dramatic Paul George 3 pointer at the buzzer, Los Angeles sent the game to overtime.

"For a second, you were like, 'Damn, we should have finished it right here,'" Dallas forward Kristaps Porzingis said. "But I think we are growing as a team mentally and kind of knew that, OK, if it is five more minutes, it's five more minutes, and we will go out there and prove that we're the superior team."

Porzingis has more freedom now

For his part Porzingis had reason to feel confident in that moment. Having averaged 13.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in that first round of games last season, he finished finished with 30 points and seven rebounds Tuesday night. Additionally he scored six of Dallas' nine points in overtime. "Honestly, it is just easy, easy opportunities because of Luka," Porzingis said. "Luka is out there, he just makes the game so much easier for everybody else."

With Doncic now back in the fold, Porzingis is feeling more freedom to play his way once again. "I am just feeling free, I would say, that is the main thing, just feeling free to play my game," he said. "And my teammates are trusting [me], my coach trusts me, and I am out there having fun. That is the main thing. If you are not having fun, it is tough to play and give it your all. I feel like this year, we have that kind of environment and we are playing hard for each other and having fun."