SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The biggest question going into the Jazz-Mavericks playoff series is will Luka Doncic play?
The Mavs star guard suffered a calf strain in Sunday’s regular season finale, and his status for Game 1 Saturday afternoon is very much up in the air.
“We’ll see,” said Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd. “He’s in great spirits today. We’ll see how his body feels tomorrow. But we’ll prepare with him, but we’ll also prepare without him.”
Kidd said it will probably be Luka’s call if he’s able to go on Saturday.
“It’s always the player’s call,” Kidd said. “So if he’s able to go and put on his shoes, then he’s going to go. But if he can’t, we’re not going to jeopardize putting him in a situation to make things worse.”
Even though Doncic scored 67 points in Dallas’ two wins over the Jazz this year, the Jazz know the Mavs are much more than a one-man show. With the likes of Spencer Dinwiddie, Jalen Brunson, Dwight Powell and Dorian Finney-Smith, the Mavs are more than capable of picking up the slack.
“He makes a lot of guys on the team better,” said Donovan Mitchell of Doncic. “But in the same token, they also have a lot of guys that can fill his role. Maybe not to the full extent, but they can do that. You got Jalen Brunson, you got Dinwiddie, those two at the forefront especially. They’ve still got guys over there who can go get it. They’re still a dangerous team. Whether he’s out there or not, we’ve got to come out with the same focus and focus on our game plan.”
“Preparing for Dallas is not just preparing for Luka,” said Jazz head coach Quin Snyder. “They’ve taken their game to another level.”
Plus, without superstar Kawhi Leonard last season, the Clippers won four straight games over the Jazz to end Utah’s season in the second round of the playoffs.
As for the Jazz health, unlike the last two years, they’re in good shape headed into the playoffs.
“We’re healthy now,” said Snyder, who finished the season with a record of 49-33. “We haven’t had that in a couple years. Two years ago, we were playing without Bojan [Bogdanovic]. Last year, Donovan wasn’t 100 percent, and we lost Mike [Conley] for a good stretch.”
“For us to go into a playoff series, knowing we have most of our guys healthy, especially the guys who have been in the rotation consistently, that’s a win for us, Conley said.
The Jazz obviously didn’t finish the regular season the way they’d like, having blown a total of six fourth quarter double-digit leads this season. But the playoffs brings a chance at a new beginning.
“We’ve had some struggles,” Mitchell said. “We’ve had some adversity, and going into the playoffs, people aren’t look for us to do things. But it’s behind us, it’s a new season, we can’t take anything that happened with us. The biggest thing is just a reset.”
Game 1 of the Jazz-Mavericks playoff series is slated for Saturday at 11:00 AM on ESPN.