A potential matchup of two of the best European players in the NBA will not happen Saturday night in Salt Lake City.
Luka Doncic, the Slovenian superstar who was just voted in as a 2023 NBA All-Star starter, was ruled out for the Dallas Mavericks' game against the host Utah Jazz and Finnish big man Lauri Markkanen.
Doncic twisted his left ankle early in the Mavericks' 99-95 win against Phoenix on Thursday night after stepping on the foot of a Suns player. Doncic, whose X-ray was negative, did not return to action after leaving with 8:39 left in the first quarter.
Unfortunately for Doncic, the quick injury and exit from Thursday's contest resulted in him going scoreless for the first time in his NBA career. The empty points total dropped his scoring average to 33.0 points per game from 33.8, allowing Joel Embiid (33.4 ppg) to leapfrog him for the league lead.
Markkanen comes in tied for 17th in the scoring race with a career-best average of 24.8.
Remarkably, Markkanen etched his name in the NBA history books in the Jazz's loss at Portland on Wednesday night. The All-Star candidate, who narrowly missed out on earning a starting role, has hit a 3-pointer in 37 consecutive outings. That's the most in NBA history for a 7-footer.
Unfortunately for the Jazz, Markkanen's milestone was overshadowed by an enormous game from Portland's Damian Lillard. The standout guard scored 60 points, including 20 straight at one point in the third quarter.
Lillard made 21 of 29 shots, drained nine 3-pointers, dished out eight assists and snagged seven rebounds in the Blazers' 134-124 victory.
"We did not do a good enough job with our pickup points on Lillard. ... I just don't think we were very detailed on our execution of the double teams," Jazz coach Will Hardy said. "We've got to get back home, get back to practice, and continue to focus on the little things and not letting scoring bursts from the other team take us out of our mindset in the game. Just got to continue to find ways to stay focused through those tough moments."
Saturday's game against Dallas kicks off a five-game homestand for the Jazz. The stretch includes two games against the Mavericks. It's an especially important period for Utah, which goes into the All-Star break with a four-game Eastern Conference road trip.
"I have no doubt that our team will bounce back," Hardy said.
Spencer Dinwiddie carried the Mavericks' scoring load -- with Doncic in the training room for most of Thursday's game. Dinwiddie scored 36 points with nine assists.
Though the Mavs beat the Suns mostly without Doncic, Dallas is 0-5 this season in games in which the talented playmaker has not played at all as he was rested during back-to-back games scheduled.
Including this one, Dallas will play seven of 10 games before the midseason break away from home.
--Field Level Media