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The Mavericks desperately need Luka Doncic for their first round series against the Jazz

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Luka Dončić suffered a strained calf on Saturday.

Luka Dončić suffered a strained calf on Saturday.
Image: Getty Images

Bless the Dallas Mavericks’ hearts, they went for it on Sunday. They were one game behind the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference standings. If the Warriors — sans Stephen Curry — had lost to the New Orleans Pelicans and the Mavericks defeated the San Antonio Spurs, the Mavs would have jumped the Warriors in the standings and became the No. 3 seed in the West.

The Mavericks held up their end of the bargain with a 130-120 victory, but Klay Thompson delivered 41 points in 30 minutes to lead the Warriors to a 128-107 victory against the Pelicans. Not only did the Mavericks fail to move up the standings, but the one thing happened on the 2021-22 regular season’s final day that could ruin their season: An injury to Luka Dončić.

It was supposed to be good news on Saturday when the league rescinded Dončić’s 16th technical foul of the season, allowing him to play in the season finale. He wouldn’t be able to finish the game after tweaking his left calf late in the third quarter. Dončić underwent an MRI on Monday, which revealed that his calf was strained. His status for Game 1 against the Utah Jazz on Saturday is questionable.

In hindsight, maybe he would’ve been better off if that tech had stood. It wouldn’t have carried over to the playoffs, and the difference between the third and fourth seed is a matchup with the Denver Nuggets or the Jazz in the first round. The Jazz may have the better total roster than the Nuggets who are dealing with injuries to their second and third best players —Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. — but the Mavericks probably have a better shot at advancing past the opening round for the first time since their 2011 NBA Championship, by avoiding reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokić, who is playing better this season than he did last. Look at me encouraging a team to tank in the final game of the season. Now I may never get to sit next to Adam Silver at a playoff game.

Ignoring the clarity of the day after a player gets hurt and being armed with a diagnosis, if Dončić misses time, or is not at full speed, this is a disaster for the Mavericks. It’s widely known that Dončić is one of the best players in the NBA, but his team relies on him more than any team relies on a player. For the second consecutive season, he leads the NBA in usage rate. Three seasons ago he was second. Dončić is the Mavericks’ leader in points, rebounds, and assists, and also attempts 21.6 field goals per game.

Spencer Dinwiddie has been a great addition for the Mavericks as a secondary scorer who can create his own shot, but it would be as hard as yard work in July for him and Jaylen Bruson to carry their team offensively against the Jazz, with Rudy Gobert in the paint and the world being lifted off of his shoulders, not having to worry about Dončić.

For the Mavs to get through this series with Dončić out for a portion, and/or hobbled for all of it, they’re going to have to take their new and improved defense, and muck up this series (high school me would be more shocked at me saying this than my explanation of Amazon’s place in the world in 2022.) They have sixth best defense in the NBA, per defensive rating, and play at the slowest place in the league. The Mavericks average 95.4 possessions per game. If possible they should cut it to 65. The Jazz have the best offensive rating in the league, and for the Mavericks to finally get out of the first round they will have to smother Donovan Mitchell, Bojan Bogdanović, and Jordan Clarkson. The same rules apply if Dončić is available for every game. His usage rate usually rises during the playoffs. For at least this round, it needs to decrease.

It’s been all good for the Mavs for some months now. Their 17-18 record from the 2021 portion of this season, feels like it happened an entire year ago. At 52-30, the team that regularly has one of the highest attendance rates in the NBA, finally had their chance with their new transcendent star to make a playoff run for the first time since Joel Anthony averaged the fourth-most playoff minutes for the Miami Heat behind LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.

Surely, they’re hoping this injury is something that Dončić can power through and be extremely close to the player that has run roughshod over the league the second half of this season. Regardless, they’d be best served to go full 1993 New York Knicks on the Jazz, or next season they will be looking to end their streak of consecutive seasons without a playoff series win at 12.



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Pep Guardiola jokes he’s ‘sorry’ that he stopped Mikel Arteta from becoming Manchester City manager

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Arsenal will face City at the Etihad Stadium tonight, with Guardiola’s former assistant back on his old North West stomping ground in the FA Cup fourth round.

The Gunners head north leading rivals City by five points with a game in hand atop the Premier League, but acutely aware of the challenging taking on the frustrated Guardiola and company.

Arteta left Guardiola’s City setup in December 2019 to take the Arsenal helm, transforming the Gunners in remarkable fashion since.

“I am pretty sure if I would have left here before, he would be here [at City] and he would be the best, absolutely,” said Guardiola, of Arteta.

“But I extended my contract, I am sorry, and he didn’t wait, so it could not happen. But definitely it could have.”

Arteta joined Manchester City’s coaching ranks on retiring as a player in 2016, learning his craft under master tactician and serial winner Guardiola.

City’s former Barcelona boss revealed how Arteta would never celebrate goals against the Gunners, the team he represented more than 100 times between 2011 and 2016.

“He loves the club; I remember when we were together here and we scored goals, he jumped a lot and celebrated – except with one team,” said Guardiola.

“One team, every time we score a goal, I jump, look back and he was sitting there. It was Arsenal.”



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R Madrid 3 – 1 A Madrid

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Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior scored in extra-time as Real Madrid fought back to beat local rivals Atletico 3-1 on Thursday and reach the Copa del Rey semi-finals.

On a freezing night at a sold-out Santiago Bernabeu hosting its first game for 77 days due to the World Cup break, Real started slowly and Atletico had many dangerous counter-attacks.

Atletico Madrid's Alvaro Morata, right, celebrates with teammate Antoine Griezmann after scoring the opening goal during the Spanish Copa del Rey quarter final soccer match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
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Atletico Madrid took the lead against their rivals

Atletico captain Koke delivered a brilliant through ball to Nahuel Molina who ghosting in behind Reals defence and the full back set up Alvaro Morata, a former Real academy player, to tap the ball into an empty net in the 19th minute.

Eder Militao wasted a golden chance to equalise in the 32nd minute after Toni Kroos had delivered a perfect cross.

Atletico Madrid's Alvaro Morata celebrates scoring
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Alvaro Morata celebrates scoring the opener

It was not only until Dani Ceballos came off the bench to replace the injured Ferland Mendy late in the first half that Real started to play better.

The 26-year-old midfielder injected a new dynamic into the team who were far more aggressive after the break.

Benzema wasted two good opportunities and Federico Valverde also sent a shot wide from just outside the box.

Real Madrid's Rodrygo celebrates with team-mates
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Real Madrid’s Rodrygo celebrates with team-mates

Substitute Rodrygo equalised in the 79th with a delightful goal, dribbling past three defenders before finishing well.

With Real Madrid in full control, Atletico played most of extra time with 10 men after defender Stefan Savic was shown his second yellow card for chopping down Eduardo Camavinga in the 99th minute.

Five minutes later, Real substitute Marco Asensio sent a low cross into the box and Vinicius’s deflected shot reached Benzema who unleashed an unstoppable strike into the net.

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema, left, celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's second goal during the Spanish Copa del Rey quarter final soccer match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
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Karim Benzema’s goal made it 2-1 in extra time

Vinicius secured Real’s win in the dying seconds with a brilliant individual goal, running half the length of the pitch before scoring with a low shot.

“We got behind very early and after Mendy’s injury the whole team had to be rebuilt. But we woke up and played really well after the break,” Ceballos told TVE.

“They played better in the first half, but the coach corrected things in the second; we took control of the ball and found the goal. Then, after the red card, everything was easier.”

Real Madrid joined Barcelona, Osasuna and Athletic Bilbao in the semi-finals.



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Everything we know about Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes’ ankle

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Patrick Mahomes examines his ankle last Sunday against the Jaguars.

Patrick Mahomes examines his ankle last Sunday against the Jaguars.
Image: Getty Images

It’s conference championship week. With only four teams on the NFL schedule this week — the Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, and Cincinnati Bengals — one interesting storyline can dominate the entire conversation leading up to the games. This time, it’s QB Patrick Mahomes’ ankle.

The fact that this storyline is the dominant one heading into the weekend makes sense. He’s the best player in the league, and his team is hosting the AFC Championship Game against the Bengals who are one of the hottest teams in the NFL. Also, the game is taking place one week after he suffered a high-ankle sprain and was still able to hobble the Chiefs to victory — aided of course by a timely 98-yard touchdown drive that was led by backup quarterback Chad Henne.

How mobile does Mahomes look right now?

Since his right ankle got rolled against the Jacksonville Jaguars, no leg in America has had as much attention on it as his. Not even Brent Maher’s as he overcame his kicking yips during the Dallas Cowboys’ loss on Sunday to the Eagles. Mahomes’ ankle has so much attention on it that Fox 4 KC’s Harold R. Kuntz has been filming him walking down from the press conference podium the last two days. And by filming Mahomes, I mean only his legs.

Thursday update: Mahomes didn’t even need to use the stairs.

Knox’s assessment: Don’t be a hero… until Sunday.

Kuntz isn’t the only reporter on the scene sharing video footage of Mahomes’ mobility. During the portion of practice that was open to the media, many videos were sent out of Mahomes moving around. As the Chiefs were warming up, Mahomes actually jogged and spun as he headed toward his next station. He is certainly running better than he was on Sunday.

In their comments to the media, Andy Reid said that Mahomes “did a nice job and was “comfortable with what we did.” Mahomes said that he believed his Wednesday practice went, “better than I expected.”

For Chiefs fans — and those of us who want to see a well-played AFC Championship Game — this news out of Kansas City is the best we could’ve received. On the Chiefs’ most active days of practice, Mahomes was seen moving very well. Also, he and the head coach both gave positive updates about the health of the most important leg in sports this weekend.

Will the ankle affect Mahomes’ play on Sunday?

There is no possible way that Mahomes will be 100 percent against the Bengals. They are going to test that ankle by trying to apply the same type of pressure that disrupted the Buffalo Bills during the Bengals’ Divisional Round win on Sunday. However, if he can move around all game as well as he has been in practice, he will be able to play well enough for the Chiefs to have a chance at victory.

We’ve received the closeup and overhead views of Mahomes’ health. All that is left is the view at Arrowhead Stadium from the CBS cameras at 6:30 p.m. EST on Jan. 29, 2023.





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