Dallas Mavericks Luka Doncic has bigger concerns than being ignored in NBA MVP voting

Re-watching Game 1 of the Dallas Mavericks’ second round playoff series was almost as much fun as watching Game 1 of the Dallas Stars’ Game 1 of their second round playoff series.

Fun like paying your bills. Fun like rush hour traffic. Fun like recovering from surgery for a torn bicep.

While the Stars were providing pain to their fans in blowing a 3-0 first period lead in an OT loss against the Colorado Avalanche, the Mavs best player was playing in so much pain it hurt to watch their blowout loss to the Thunder.

The Luka Doncic playing in these playoffs is not the same Luka Doncic who played during the regular season, when he put up MVP numbers.

Luka finished a distant third in the 2023-’24 MVP award, which went to Denver’s Nikola Jokic.

Regardless of the voting, Doncic is hurting, and he’s dangerously close to hurting his team.

It’s funny to think that there was a day when one of the biggest problems with the Euro import is that they were soft.

The right knee sprain he suffered in the first round playoff series against the Clippers could be a season-ending issue for this team. He only says that it hurts.

Maybe the Las Vegas Sands Corp. can send to OKC one of those hyperbaric chambers. Maybe a Robert Kraft-endorsed massage therapist (please don’t tell Tom Brady about that joke).

The only way Doncic’s knee will feel right is if he rests, and there is no way the Mavericks can afford to sit their best player and expect to do anything other than lose to the Thunder. He would rather drink a keg of stale milk than sit out any of these playoff games.

This is one of those dreaded scenarios when you have the team that is good enough to reach a conference, or maybe even NBA, Finals, but not the health.

As long as Luka looks like this, option No. 1 must be Kyrie Irving. He can do this, and now he must.

In Game 1 at OKC on Tuesday night, Luka was a pitiful 6-of-19 from the floor, including 1-of-8 from 3-point range. He played 41 minutes; it’s not as if anyone can say he was going through the motions, like, say, the Clippers’ Paul George and James Harden for most of Round 1 against the Mavs.

The Mavs can get away with one of these performances from their best player in a series and still win four games. There is no way they can get away with two.

Look beyond Luka’s overall playoff numbers; you have to dig into the last few games to see something is not just wrong but terribly wrong.

A warning to readers: Prepare for numbers.

In the regular season, he averaged 33 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists on 49 percent shooting. Even in a relaxed era of defense in the NBA, this stat line reads like typos.

Overall, in these playoff he averages a healthy 28.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 9.4 assists per game. In the playoffs, where the games are tighter, a solid line.

In these last five playoff games, he’s still averaging 26.6 points, 8 rebounds and 10 assists. All good.

In that stretch, he’s shooting 38 percent from the floor, 16 percent from 3-point range and four turnovers a game. He is 8-of-49 from 3. Not good.

If numbers aren’t your thing, watch the bleeping game. There are women who are currently in labor who look better than Luka does playing basketball.

“Who cares, we lost, man. We just gotta move onto the next one,” Doncic told the media after the Game 1 loss. “I gotta be better, we gotta be better. We’re known for Game 1 struggling.”

This is true. The Mavs are 0-5 in Game 1 of the playoffs under head coach Jason Kidd; something to be said for consistency.

Luka didn’t offer anything that could be construed as an excuse.

Even when Luka is healthy, he can often look like he’s hurt. He is a big man with little-man skills who plays heavy; his falls and collisions are often full of theatrics.

If this is the way it’s going to be, Kyrie needs to shoot more, and pass less.

Until Luka’s right knee is right, Kyrie as the No. 1 is the only way this series will be “fun” to watch for the Mavericks.