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21 Oct 2023

Pistons Mavericks Basketball

Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic, left, and Josh Green (8) right, watch the second half of an NBA ... [+] preseason basketball game as the team played against the Detroit Pistons in Dallas, Friday, Oct. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

The Dallas Mavericks were again short-handed as they played their preseason finale Friday night. Playing without Luka Doncic and Jaden Hardy, Dallas was finally able to notch its first preseason win, beating the visiting Detroit Pistons, 114-104.

Injuries to Doncic, Kyrie Irving and now Hardy have hobbled the team as it globe-trotted from Abu Dhabi to Madrid to Dallas for its four preseason games. Now, as the team closes out preseason play and prepares for the regular season, health remains a concern.

“The biggest thing tonight is health. Get out of this thing healthy with no injuries. Especially with the injuries that we’ve had here of late,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said during his pregame press conference Friday.

“It’s just about now being healthy at some point,” Kidd continued. “Hopefully, opening night. If not opening night, [the] home opener. If not the home opener, Memphis. If not Memphis, I don’t know who we play after that.”

All eyes remain on Doncic as a left calf strain keeps him sidelined. He’s undergoing treatment and rehabilitation for the injury, but the team doesn’t yet know when its star player could return to action.

“[We] don’t have a timetable yet,” Kidd said. “He’s still being evaluated, and we’ll see how he feels in the next week.”

Doncic continues to ride the exercise bike and do light shooting work in practice. Kidd said he added some on-court work to his routine, but “that’s pretty much it.”

While Doncic remains out, Dallas did get one key player back Friday. Kyrie Irving, who missed two preseason games with a sore left groin, returned to the starting lineup. He played nearly 27 minutes against Detroit and had 17 points, eight rebounds, 11 assists, two steals and a block.

Irving and fellow starters Josh Green and rookie Dereck Lively II paced the Mavericks against the Pistons. Green had 22 points, three rebounds and two steals. Fifteen of his points came in the first quarter. The outburst was his career-high for points scored in the opening quarter.

Lively, who is shaping up to be the team’s starting center on opening night, scored 14 points to go along with five rebounds, two assists and a block. His 14 points were the highest points he has scored in a single game since high school.

“Lively, for such a young guy, he really listens,” Green told the media after the game. “He catches on to things. He’s been an amazing teammate to be around. He’s loud in practice. He does everything. He works super hard. … Tonight, you saw it. D-Live, he’s been working on all of that, and he’s going to be a big help for us.”

With lingering health concerns making Doncic’s return uncertain, Kidd and the Mavericks understand that it is crucial for everyone to step up and for the starting unit to get out to a strong start. The team will need to carry Friday’s performance over into the regular season.

“We haven’t been seen by the public for a while, so I thought for the public to see that we can play fast, and to have 40 points in that first quarter and then also come back in the third and almost have that same mentality,” Kidd said after the game. “It was good to see that starting group play. … A lot of good things for us going into San Antonio.”