NBA

NBA Playoffs 2021: Concern for Luka Doncic as Dallas Mavericks 'hope' neck injury can improve before Game 5

The LA Clippers continued the remarkable turnaround in the first-round series with the Dallas Mavericks, squaring things up at 2-2 with a dominant win on the road.

Outside of a second consecutive comfortable loss at home, the pressing concern with the Mavericks will continue to be the health of Luka Doncic.

Listed as questionable prior to Game 4 with a cervical strain, Doncic is reportedly suffering from pain in his neck and left arm.

A dominant force over the first three games in the series, Doncic was held to just 19 points, six rebounds and six assists on 9-for-24 shooting from the field and 1-for-7 from the free-throw line.

"He's in pain. It appeared to me that he couldn't turn left, he couldn't look to his left," Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle said postgame.

"That's difficult for a guy that relies on peripheral vision and basically he played his whole life with his head on a swivel. His neck issue certainly contributed to a 9-for-24 night and him having some real unusual struggles."

In visable pain for stretches throughout the game, Doncic was clearly hampered, though Clippers head coach praised his team's job defensively on the superstar guard.

"We want to let him play one-on-one and just try to keep his assists down because he dominates and controls the game scoring and making guys better," Lue said. "If we can come away with him only having six assists on the night then I think we did our job. He's a tough cover and we understand that so we have to take away something."

A disappointed Doncic played down the impact it had on his performance.

"I don't think that matters right now. We lost. Injuries are part of basketball, I was 100 percent but I played terrible so I've just got to move on to the next week."

"The pain is the neck and then the nerve down. I don't really know how to explain that but it feels way better today than yesterday. I just keep doing massages and icing it down and be ready for Wednesday."

LA have now won games 3 and 4 by an average margin of 17.5 points, in an impressive response after dropping the first two games on their home STAPLES Center floor.

"Coming here to a hostile environment down 0-2, mostly I'm proud of us keeping our poise, following the game plan and cleaning up some mistakes," Lue said.

"From two disappointing losses on our home floor I felt we really had to focus coming in here and take it one game at a time. I'm really proud of the way our guys focused and locked in."

"We still haven't done anything yet, now the the series is tied up going back home, try and take care of home court advantage. Keep it going from there, just keep trying to build momentum."

Heading back to LA, the series will have two nights off before an all-important Game 5, with Carlisle and the Mavericks praying it gives Doncic enough time to continue the healing process with the injury.

"We've got to hope in the next couple of days that he can get better, hopefully substantially better. There is a two day break between games which is a positive in this case. His neck issue certainly contributed to a 9-for-24 night and him having some real unusual struggles," Carlisle said.

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