Luka Doncic admits to officiating frustration, vow to have 'fun'

June 13, 2024, 4:19 PM

DALLAS -- With the Mavericks on the brink of elimination, superstar Luka Doncic acknowledged that his frustration with officials has been an issue during the NBA Finals and vowed to take a different approach during Friday's Game 4.

"Go back to playing fun," Doncic said after the Mavericks' film session at the American Airlines Center on Thursday. "We talk about how we come back from [21] points in the fourth quarter in the Finals. We were having fun. We were defending. We were running. Our pace was great. Just taking good shots."

The Mavs' Game 3 rally fell short in Tuesday's 106-99 loss to the Boston Celtics after Doncic fouled out with 4:12 remaining, the first time in his career that he had fouled out during regulation. He was called for four fouls in the fourth quarter, including his last two within a 26-second span, and expressed displeasure with the officiating during his postgame media availability.

Doncic, as he's prone to do, complained to the referees throughout the Game 3 loss. On a couple of occasions, as the Celtics cut the Mavs' early 13-point lead to one by the end of the first quarter, Doncic's failure to get back on defense led to open shots for Boston.

Doncic, 25, has repeatedly admitted over the course of his career that his tendency to argue with the referees can be problematic. He did so again Thursday, saying that the officials will "have the last word" and that he has "got to go away from that."

"I just really want to win," Doncic said. "Sometimes I don't show it the right way, but at the end of the day, I really want to win. I've got to do a better job showing it a different way."

Doncic has averaged 29.7 points, 9.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game during the Finals despite playing on a sprained right knee and suffering a thoracic contusion during Game 1. He told ESPN's Malika Andrew that he would receive another pain-killing injection to ease the discomfort of the thoracic contusion before Game 4, as Doncic did the previous two games.

Doncic has struggled defensively while being mercilessly hunted by the Celtics. According to Second Spectrum, the Celtics are blowing by Doncic on 67.7% of their drives against him. That is the highest blow-by percentage allowed on drives by a single defender in a playoff series in the last 10 years, with a minimum of 10 drives defended per game.

"My message to him is he's not alone in this," said Mavs guard Kyrie Irving, who struggled during the two losses in Boston before scoring 35 points in Game 3. "He's played as best as he can despite the circumstances, just injuries and stuff. He's been giving it his all. It's not all on him."

In an attempt to be optimistic about Dallas' odds of becoming the first team to ever overcome a 3-0 series deficit, Doncic pointed to how the Mavs turned their season around after struggling coming out of the All-Star break. Dallas had lost five of six games before winning 16 of 18 en route to claiming the Western Conference's fifth seed.

"I know that's the regular season, but it was the kind of point we all came together, and the chemistry from there went to the top," Doncic said. "We've just got to believe. We talk about it in the locker room. I know we can do it, and we're going to believe until the end."