Doncic: Mavs had my back after Whiteside foul

  • Joined in September 2009
  • Covers the Dallas Cowboys and Dallas Mavericks
  • Appears regularly on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM

DALLAS — Luka Doncic downplayed the fracas that started with Utah Jazz backup center Hassan Whiteside’s hard foul on him as “nothing” but typical playoff tension, but the Dallas Mavericks’ superstar appreciated his teammates’ rushing to protect him.

The incident occurred on Doncic’s dunk attempt with 5:33 remaining in the Mavs’ 102-77 win in Monday’s pivotal Game 5.

After Doncic crashed to the floor, Whiteside stood over him. Dallas forwards Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock ran toward the baseline to confront the 7-foot, 265-pound center and exchanged shoves with him. Referees and coaches and security officials from both teams rushed into the fray to ensure that the situation did not escalate.

“They had my back,” said Doncic, who had 33 points, 13 rebounds and five assists in the win. “Both of them, anybody, we had each other’s back. That’s what great teams do. I would go with these guys to war. This is a special team.”

Whiteside was called for two technical fouls and ejected. Bullock, who had been assessed his first technical in a Mavericks uniform earlier in the game, was whistled for another technical and also ejected. Finney-Smith was also called for a technical.

“I just ran over there and tried to protect my teammate,” said Finney-Smith, whose defense Jazz star Donovan Mitchell (9 points, 4-of-15 shooting, 4 turnovers) credited for his struggles. “It’s playoff basketball. It was a hard foul. … We know they’re going to try to hit Luka. They’ve also been trying to hit [Jalen Brunson], too, lately. We’ve just got to protect ourselves, protect each other and win games.”

Doncic, who said he would offer to pay the fines for his teammates’ technical fouls, said he felt “way better” in his second game back from a strained calf that sidelined him for 13 days. He was especially dominant in the third quarter, when Doncic had 19 points, matching the Jazz’s total for the quarter.

“The first game, I was a little janky — I use this word a lot,” said Doncic, who had 30 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists in the Mavs’ Game 4 road loss. “But I felt better today. I think the first couple of minutes I was tired, but then I was OK. I think the run in the third I was a little tired, too, but just getting my air back. I’ve got to hydrate for Utah now, the altitude.”

Dallas has a chance to close out the series in Thursday’s Game 6 in Salt Lake City. It would be the first time the Mavs have advanced past the first round since Dallas’ 2011 championship run. Dallas has won eight of nine series in franchise history when it had a 3-2 lead, with the exception coming last season against the LA Clippers.

“Just play the same way we played today,” Doncic said. “I think our defense was amazing, the energy was high and we played hard. That’s the way we’ve got to play, and that’s how we win the next game.”

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