NBA Basketball

Doncic questionable as Mavs host streaking Spurs

The NBA playoffs already are looking to be without LeBron James for the first time since the 2004-05 season. Imagine a postseason also without Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs for the first time since the Clinton Administration.

The Spurs have gone through fits and starts this season with no extended winning or losing streaks, which has had them scuffling in the bottom half of the Western Conference playoff standings.

However, their current season-high-tying five-game win streak has finally given the Spurs a little breathing room with 15 games to go, and has them positioned to secure a playoff spot for a 22nd consecutive season.

They can get another step closer Tuesday night when they visit longtime rival Dallas, a team now playing out the string and thinking about next season after pulling off a deadline trade that will pair Kristaps Porzingis with Rookie of the Year frontrunner Luka Doncic.

Popovich has kept the Spurs in the hunt without any of the Big Three -- Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili -- who helped the Spurs win five championships over the last two decades. This version of the Spurs is powered by LaMarcus Aldridge and by DeMar DeRozan, who came to San Antonio in the deal that sent Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors.

They handed the East-leading Milwaukee Bucks a rare loss on Sunday to give San Antonio wins over the Bucks, Nuggets and Thunder on this win streak.

"I don't make sweeping assumptions about where we are (and) where we're going," Popovich said after beating the Bucks 121-114. "Just like any other year, we've always tried to be the best team we could be by the time the playoffs arrive, and we hope that we'll be part of the playoffs."

Dallas, which has lost five in a row and 10 of 11, has its fingers crossed that Doncic will be available to face the Spurs. He was limping at the end of Sunday's 94-93 loss to the Houston Rockets, and deferred to rookie Jalen Brunson to take the final shot in the waning seconds, which was blocked by Chris Paul.

After the game, Doncic said he felt a "pop." On Monday, the Mavericks said he has a mild left knee strain and he is questionable for Tuesday.

Doncic has struggled at both ends since the Mavs traded all four starters around him for a still-recovering Porzingis and cap space. Just in the last four games, Doncic is 31 of 78 from the floor and 9 of 29 from beyond the arc.

Meanwhile, over his last 10 games, he's recorded a minus-115 rating, meaning Dallas has been outscored by 115 points with Doncic on the floor.

"It's not a very exclusive club," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "We've all been taking a beating."

The Mavs' offense has greatly deteriorated since the trade. In three of its last five games, Dallas hasn't cracked 93 points and twice was held in the 80s, a point total that is practically unheard of in this season's high-scoring NBA.

The Spurs won both prior meetings this season. The Texas rivals face off again in the regular season finale on April 10 in San Antonio.

--Field Level Media

Updated March 11, 2019

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