Shams: 'Optimism' Luka Doncic Returns from Calf Injury for Mavs vs. Jazz Game 3 or 4

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVApril 19, 2022

DALLAS, TEXAS - APRIL 18: Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks shoots the ball while working out prior to Game Two of the Western Conference First Round NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center on April 18, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks may be getting some star power back after splitting the first two games of their first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz.

Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported there is "optimism" from Dallas that Luka Doncic will return from a calf injury for either Thursday's Game 3 or Saturday's Game 4. He missed the first two contests with the injury that is "improving" ahead of workouts that could determine when he returns. 

Most of the time, visiting teams likely feel good about splitting the first two games of a best-of-seven series on the road. After all, that means home-court disadvantage has swung into an opportunity to seize control in the upcoming two games in front of friendly fans.

However, that may not be the case in this series.

The fifth-seeded Jazz had a chance to grab a commanding 2-0 lead before the series even shifted to Utah with Doncic sidelined. Instead, the fourth-seeded Mavericks have some momentum on their side after a dramatic Game 2 win and could be getting one of the best players in the entire league back for what has now turned into a best-of-five battle.

Jalen Brunson was brilliant as the go-to option for Dallas in Game 2 and finished with 41 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals. Throw in Maxi Kleber draining eight of 11 shots from three-point range, and Doncic wasn't even needed Monday.

He likely will be if his team is going to advance, though, which is why this update is such a key development.

Doncic averaged 28.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, 8.7 assists and 1.2 steals per game this season while shooting a career-best 35.3 percent from deep. Even if he is somewhat limited with the calf injury, his presence on the court will lead to open looks for Brunson, Kleber and others because of the attention he draws.

The three-time All-Star has never advanced past the first round of the playoffs in his career, but he has a golden opportunity to do just that if he returns from this injury.