Surviving any game without Luka Doncic is difficult enough for the Dallas Mavericks. Adding the absence of Kristaps Porzingis makes the challenge a little more daunting.
The Mavericks hope to avoid seeing their stars in street clothes for the second straight game Tuesday when they host the Brooklyn Nets.
Doncic sat out three games Nov. 17-21 with a left knee and ankle sprain sustained Nov. 15 against the Denver Nuggets. The Mavericks lost a pair of single-digit games to the Phoenix Suns and a six-point game to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Doncic returned and averaged 26.6 points in five games before sitting out Saturday’s 97-90 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies with a sprained left ankle that required an MRI for a clearer evaluation, though coach Jason Kidd said Doncic did not aggravate the injury in Friday’s loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
Porzingis missed his second straight game with a left knee contusion and seventh overall, and without their two leading scorers, the Mavericks lost for the seventh time in nine games since Doncic initially was injured.
Monday, the Mavs announced Doncic and guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (right knee contusion) are questionable for Tuesday while Porzingis (left knee contusion) was listed as probable.
“We’re just trying to make something happen as a team,” Hardaway said. “We just got to do a better job of trying to will these wins out and try to make sure we put the ball in the basket.”
Without their star duo, the Mavericks shot 33.7 percent and nearly rallied from a 16-point deficit as Hardaway scored 29 and Jalen Brunson finished with 15 in place of Doncic against the Grizzlies.
“Those guys that were in uniform tonight fought and they gave themselves a chance to get back in the game,” Kidd said.
Brooklyn has yet to lose consecutive games and is 14-4 in its past 18 games. The Nets are starting a four-game road trip coming off a disappointing 111-107 home loss to the Chicago Bulls on Saturday.
Brooklyn coughed up an 11-point lead in the third quarter and shot 41.1 percent on a night when the Nets attempted 111 field goals, 25 more than Chicago.
“To go on the road to Dallas and a back-to-back with Houston is a really good challenge for us,” Brooklyn guard James Harden said of the Tuesday-Wednesday schedule. “Every game is going to be a different challenge. It’s going to be good for us. All these games are building our character and building our togetherness as a collective group.”
While Kevin Durant led the Nets with 28 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 20 against the Bulls, Harden continued his uneven season. He finished with 14 points and 14 assists but shot 5-of-21 from the floor.
Harden is shooting 40.3 percent, his lowest since finishing his rookie season in 2009-10 shooting 40.3 percent in 76 games. He is averaging 20.6 points, and Saturday marked the eighth time he missed at least 10 shots.
“Throughout the course of the game there were opportunities for me to finish. I just didn’t convert at the high level that I needed to,” Harden said.
It was the second time in four games Harden missed at least 10 shots, and the Nets are hoping the follow-up is similar to last Tuesday. He was 4-of-15 in a 113-107 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Nov. 27 and responded with 34 points on 11-of-20 from the field in a 112-110 win over the New York Knicks.