Luka Doncic Better Tread Carefully With Referees From Now On
By Liam McKeone
Luka Doncic is a certified, Grade-A superstar. As such, he complains to referees incessantly. Everyone watches as the best players in the NBA jaw with refs every single night, lobbying to get calls. Nobody likes watching it, but it's simply a reality of the game. If said superstars do not work the referees, then they won't get those 50-50 calls in their favor as often as they'd like.
Even knowing that, it's impressive how often Doncic argues with officials. It's a constant stream all game, every game. Therefore, it makes sense that he racks up technical fouls more than nearly any other player in the league, if only because the sheer volume of complaints he makes will eventually get under anyone's skin. Especially when he gets emphatic.
Last night, Doncic received his 15th technical foul of the year. It was a weak one (from what we can tell without hearing what he said), but that's the risk these stars take when they argue with referees all night. Sometimes you'll get one you don't deserve. That is what Doncic has to keep in mind going forward because if he gets one more technical foul, it's an automatic one-game suspension.
It is extremely important for Doncic to keep his jabbering to refs to the bare minimum and his head level going forward. The Dallas Mavericks are in the midst of a razor-tight race in the middle of the Western Conference playoff standings. As of Monday, the Mavs are dead even with the Lakers and Trail Blazers, who ranked fifth, sixth, and seventh in the playoff standings, respectively.
As everyone has discussed over the last few days, whichever of those three teams finishes last will be forced to participate in the play-in tournament. This runs the risk for each team of not making the playoffs if they lose two games in a row, and at best will result in a first-round matchup with the second seed in the conference, either the Utah Jazz or Phoenix Suns at this point. Those aren't teams we're used to seeing at the top of the mountain, but they've been the two best teams in basketball all season. Nobody wants to play them.
Dallas goes as Doncic goes. Porzingis is not the second star they envisioned despite the fact that he's played like one. The Mavericks are 2-4 this season when Doncic sits. They lost by an average of 10.5 points in those losses. When Doncic doesn't play, his team has worse than a coin-flip shot at winning. In a playoff race where one game may very well decide if the Mavs end up as the fifth or seventh seed come playoff time, those games matter.
Doncic has to tread lightly. He doesn't have a choice. Missing one game because he ticked a referee off could make or break his team's season. The margin for error is always slim, and Doncic's just got a whole lot slimmer.