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Why Luka Doncic is struggling during the NBA Playoffs


As the Mavericks continue their playoff journey, questions loom around the performance of Luka Doncic.

After turning in an MVP-caliber regular season, Dallas’ superstar guard has struggled during the postseason. Doncic’s playoff averages of 28.3 points, 9.4 assists and 8.4 rebounds per game are more than solid, but he’s shooting just 39.5 percent from the field and an abysmal 22.7 percent from 3-point range.

Doncic’s shooting splits are again at the forefront of the conversation after he was limited to 19 points on 6-of-19 shooting in Game 1 of the Mavericks’ second-round meeting with the Thunder. It’s just the sixth time Doncic has been held under 20 points in 2023-24 and his lowest-scoring output since March 19.

As stifling as Oklahoma City’s defense can be, there appears to be more to Doncic’s struggles. Here is how Doncic’s health may be impacting his performance.

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Doncic has had his share of ups and downs during these playoffs but he has not had an efficient shooting night from beyond the arc since Game 2 of the opening round on April 23.

Doncic first appeared on the official injury report on April 28, when he was listed as questionable for Game 4 of Dallas’ first-round series with LA. The injury designation was right knee soreness.

On April 30, Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd revealed that Doncic is playing through a sprained right knee. One day later, Doncic scored a postseason-high 35 points in a blowout win over the Clippers but shot just 2 of 8 from distance.

Since that performance, Doncic has shot 15 of 45 (33.3 percent) from the field and 2 of 18 (11.1 percent) from 3-point range. He has appeared on the official injury report with a knee sprain each game.

After the Mavericks’ closeout win over the Clippers in the first round, Doncic said, “[My knee’s] OK. I don’t think it’s going to get better before I get some rest. That’s a lot of minutes. Maybe the summer.”

After seeing 41 minutes of playing time in Game 1 of the conference semifinals, Doncic was asked if his health is impacting his efficiency. He responded by saying, “Who cares? We lost.”

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In addition to averaging a career-high and league-leading 33.9 points per game, Doncic shot a career-best 38.2 percent from 3 on 10.6 attempts per game during the 2023-24 regular season. His 48.7 percent field goal shooting was the second-best mark of his six-year career.

A comparison of his regular-season numbers to his postseason figures illustrates the type of impact this injury is having on him.

The defensive efforts of the Clippers and Thunder have certainly had an impact on Doncic’s output as well but the injury is the most notable occurrence since Doncic turned in a landmark regular season.

Doncic does not believe the injury will improve during the playoffs, meaning his performance depends on his ability to manage what he’s playing through.

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