You will not discover 5 extra meaningless phrases in sports activities than “I am not a physician, however …” They’re an outsider’s hedge towards insider data, the justification for choices primarily based on experience that should not be wanted. It would not take a physician to conduct a risk-reward evaluation. It would not take a physician to use widespread sense. 

And it did not take a physician to see that Luka Doncic was struggling to make it up and down the court docket within the fourth quarter of Friday’s Recreation 3 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks. The second-year sensation sprained his left ankle late within the third quarter, limped off the court docket with out displaying any capability to place weight on the affected foot, and by some means made it again onto the ground lower than 4 minutes of recreation time later. Predictably, he lasted solely round two minutes earlier than shuffling off the ground for the rest of the night time. The ache was too nice to play by means of, which begs the query: Why even attempt? 

The simple reply is that Doncic, and the Mavs, wished to win the sport. A victory would have pushed them up 2-1 within the collection, taking them midway to one of many greatest upsets in NBA historical past. However that most likely wasn’t occurring, Luka or not. Dallas trailed Los Angeles by 17 factors when Doncic returned to the sport, and ESPN’s win likelihood metric gave the Mavericks solely a 1.6 % likelihood of successful at that second. 

Even when they’d managed the comeback, they’d nonetheless be underdogs within the collection. The Clippers have been with out start line guard Patrick Beverley for 2 video games. Montrezl Harrell remains to be getting again into form after leaving the bubble. They’re solely going to get stronger because the collection progresses. And taking the Clippers down would hardly place Dallas as championship favorites. They’d doubtless enter the Western Convention finals and the NBA Finals as heavy underdogs, because of their No. 7 seed. The general stakes right here have been low. Sitting Doncic solely meant punting away a recreation, a collection, and a season they have been most likely shedding anyway. 

Taking part in him provided the meager risk of an upset that doubtless would not have modified the crew’s total trajectory, however created the danger of an additional damage that might have torpedoed it. Doncic already had a historical past of ankle points (albeit on the proper facet moderately than the left). He’s additionally 21 years previous, an MVP candidate and the important thing to unlocking a decade or extra of competition for Dallas. The Mavericks gambled that on a 1.6 % likelihood to win the third recreation of a first-round collection. 

They’ll justify that call as a result of they’ve docs. They know Luka’s total medical image higher than the outsiders who’d choose to see it protected. However Golden State’s medical workers knew Kevin Durant’s physique simply as nicely. How’d that one work out? 

Well being hasn’t precisely been a assure within the bubble. Leaping from 5 months of relaxation into the playoffs in a matter of weeks put gamers in peril. Comfortable-tissue accidents are usually the results of overtaxing the physique. Think about a situation through which Doncic, unable to place weight on his left leg, suffered a extra debilitating damage by overcompensating on the proper. A possible Dallas dynasty may have disappeared over 1.6 % within the first spherical.

Possibly the Dallas medical workers determined such a threat was minimal, however the reward was inarguably smaller. This wasn’t Recreation 7 of the Finals. This was the third in what might be tons of of playoff video games Doncic performs for the Mavericks. No crew ought to ever threat that risk for such a meager prize. Dallas ought to know that. Practically twenty years in the past, it discovered itself in a really related scenario. 

In Recreation 3 of the 2003 Western Convention finals, Dirk Nowitzki sprained his knee. He sat out for the remainder of the collection regardless of the protests of crew proprietor Mark Cuban. Don Nelson refused to threat Dirk’s future on a single collection. Nowitzki wound up taking part in one other 110, largely injury-free playoff video games for Dallas, and gained the franchise the 2011 championship. He might need swung that 2003 collection towards San Antonio in Dallas’ favor, however one yr is nearly by no means value a decade. Neither, then, is one recreation. 

And it should not take a physician to know that. Whether or not Doncic insisted on taking part in, the teaching workers grew overzealous in in search of out an in the end meaningless win or the group as a complete determined to take the prospect, anyone wanted to face up and remind everybody concerned what was on the road by placing him again within the recreation. It would not take a physician to know a wholesome Luka Doncic is the single-most vital factor the Mavericks can take out of their bubble expertise. That ought to have taken nothing greater than widespread sense. 


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