Luka Doncic on being ruled out of NBA Finals Game 3: ‘We couldn’t play physical’

DALLAS — When the fourth quarter began, Mavericks star Luka Doncic had just two fouls and his team was 15 points behind the Celtics.

With about eight minutes to go in the game, an entirely different set of circumstances developed. Dallas was back in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, trailing Boston by a mere three points. And Dončić was out for good, fouling out.

That’s four whistles in the fourth quarter, in the final game, against the league’s best player. It’s only the third time Doncic has sat out a game — regular or postseason.

“(This) has never happened to me, I don’t remember,” said Doncic, who was disqualified after scoring 27 points in a 106-99 loss. He was talking about being called for four fouls in eight minutes.

“We didn’t play physical,” Dončić said. “I don’t want to say anything. You know, six fouls in the NBA Finals, that’s basically how I’m like (makes motion with palms out). Come on, man. It’s better than this.”

Dallas, which trailed by 21 in the fourth, was on a 20-2 run when Doncic was called for his sixth and final foul at 4:12 of the fourth. He was guarding Jaylen Brown and the contact occurred, though it looked like Doncic stayed in front of Brown. Dallas challenged the call, and head referee Mark Davis said Brown hadn’t yet established his position when he hit Doncic.

“I don’t think it was a foul; I don’t think any of us did it,” Derek Lively II said.

Brown also called Dončić’s fifth foul, which involved some questionable contact between the two players. Dallas coach Jason Kidd was later asked why he didn’t challenge Dončić’s fifth foul, and said “Maybe we should have challenged all of them.”

“We probably could have done something different on his fifth foul to give us a little more time to set up our defense and get him into the matchup,” Kyrie Irving said. “But looking back, it’s 20/20. We’ve got to wash our hands of it and get ready for Game 4.”

The Mavs, now trailing the Celtics 3-0, built a 13-point lead early in Game 3. Doncic and Irving, who finished the game with 35 points, were leading the way, and the Mavs were still up by 1 at halftime even after Boston joined the party.

Dončić struggled to shoot, making just 11 of 27 shots. He had 6 rebounds and 6 assists while shooting 1-of-7 from 3, and he is playing with an injured chest that has required pain injections. Dončić looked in discomfort at times during Game 3 – that may have contributed to at least some of the fouls.

“He definitely has a target on his chest,” Kidd said. “He has to protect and understand that we’re there to protect him and help him if he gets lost.

“Again, he’s carrying the load offensively,” Kidd added. “They’re putting him in every pick-and-roll and iso. He needs to be able to play a game where he can rest on offense and let others carry the load.”

“I think we should have continued to play with the same energy, kept the same guys. We were playing well,” Dončić said. “But then they came back. At one point in the fourth quarter we were down by 21 and then we came back. We’re going to keep believing until the end.”

Required Reading

(Photo: Tim Heitman/Getty Images)

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