LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The Dallas Mavericks will work around the clock on Luka Doncic, hoping he can be healthy enough to play Sunday.
The Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets can tell them all about how hard the playoffs are without star guards.
Doncic hopes to make a quick recovery, and the 76ers and Nets look to avoid quick exits heading into Game 4 of their series.
Doncic sprained his left ankle in the third quarter of Dallas’ 130-122 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night. He came back in the fourth but wasn’t moving well and eventually left for good.
The Mavericks were hoping to get him an MRI exam Saturday and planning to keep him off the court all day. Coach Rick Carlisle said Doncic would likely be a game-time decision.
“Obviously, we know the nature of the game. Sometimes injuries happen,” Dallas guard Trey Burke said. “If he can’t go, guys have got to be ready to play, step up and we’ve got to have the same mentality going out there and that’s to win.”
The Mavs beat the second-seeded Clippers in Game 2 even though Doncic was saddled with foul trouble. Losing the NBA’s triple-double leader for an entire game would be much tougher.
The 76ers and Nets have had to go entire series without top ballhandlers and they’re on the verge of being swept out of the bubble.
Philadelphia is down 3-0 to Boston. Playing without All-Star Ben Simmons, the Sixers have hung in defensively but struggled to score down the stretch in close losses.
“It’s hard when you come up short,” All-Star center Joel Embiid said. “No one wants to be in this position. I’m sure my teammates, we all hate being in this position but like I said we can’t give up.”
No team has come back from a 3-0 deficit. The Nets sure don’t look capable after getting routed by Toronto in their Game 3 loss.
Brooklyn already came to the bubble without Kyrie Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie, their top point guards. They lost another key player after Game 2 when starting swingman Joe Harris left for family reasons.
“I hope our group embraces the now the moment that they’re in,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said. “We don’t know what this thing is going to look like a month, a year, two years from now, so you have moments in your life that you can hold onto. We can embrace this time and you never know what happens if you win one game.”
A look at Sunday’s games:
CELTICS VS. 76ERS
Boston leads 3-0. Game 4, 1 p.m. EDT, ABC.
— NEED TO KNOW: This could be the last game for Philadelphia before an offseason of change. There were high expectations after bringing in Al Horford to play in the frontcourt with Embiid and Tobias Harris, and they’ll fall far short of them with a quick exit.
— KEEP AN EYE ON: The 76ers’ spirit. Embiid and coach Bretty Brown said they believe the 76ers can still come back, but a big early deficit and a chance to go home might extinguish those thoughts.
— INJURY WATCH: The balanced Celtics have so far overcome the loss of Gordon Hayward to a sprained right ankle earlier in the series.
— PRESSURE IS ON: Harris. He’s 0 for 10 from 3-point range in the series and has gone 10 for 33 overall in the last two games.
CLIPPERS VS. MAVERICKS
Los Angeles leads 2-1. Game 4, 3:30 p.m. EDT, ABC.
— NEED TO KNOW: The young Mavericks seemed to wake up the Clippers after outplaying them for much of the first two games. Kawhi Leonard made sure that wouldn’t happen again, finishing with 36 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
— KEEP AN EYE ON: Paul George. The star forward has had consecutive brutal shooting performances, going 4 for 17 and 3 for 16. The Clippers put up 130 puts in Game 3 even with that, so they could be even more explosive if George straightens out his shot.
— INJURY WATCH: Most of the attention is on Doncic, but the Clippers are also without their starting point guard. Patrick Beverley has missed the past two games with a left calf strain.
— PRESSURE IS ON: Burke and Seth Curry. The guards have played well off the Dallas bench but one of them might need to do it in a starting role if Doncic is unable to go.
RAPTORS VS. NETS
Toronto leads 3-0. Game 4, 6:30 p.m. EDT, TNT.
— NEED TO KNOW: A year after winning their first NBA championship, the Raptors can earn their first series sweep. The Minnesota Timberwolves and Clippers are the only other franchises without one.
— KEEP AN EYE ON: Fred VanVleet. The guard has 17 3-pointers on 54.8% shooting. He needs just three to tie Kyle Lowry’s team record for a series, a mark that Lowry took six games to set.
— INJURY WATCH: The Nets remain without Jamal Crawford, their injury in the bubble on top of the ones they had coming into it.
— PRESSURE IS ON: Caris LeVert. Without Harris to open things up on the outside and with the Raptors holding center Jarrett Allen without a shot in Game 3, the Nets may just simply not have any reliable offensive options left beyond LeVert trying to create shots.
NUGGETS VS. JAZZ
Utah leads 2-1. Game 4, 9 p.m. EDT, TNT.
— NEED TO KNOW: Utah has easily won the last two games after dropping the opener in overtime. The Jazz romped to a 124-87 victory in Game 3.
— KEEP AN EYE ON: Utah’s offense. The Jazz are clearly in a groove, shooting better than 51% in each of the last two games and scoring 124 points in both.
— INJURY WATCH: Coach Michael Malone said the Nuggets would love to Gary Harris (right hip) back at some point in the series. They’ve also been playing without Will Barton III (right knee).
— PRESSURE IS ON: The Nuggets. Malone said his players were playing soft and that’s never going to win in the postseason.
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