With a first-round rematch between their teams set, Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic said there are no hard feelings remaining from the heated rivalry that he developed with LA Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. during last season's playoff series.
According to Doncic, Morris apologized to him during a game earlier this season about stepping on the back of Doncic's left ankle in Game 5, a controversial play that the Mavs considered dirty with their star playing on a sprained ankle.
Morris served as the Clippers' primary defender on Doncic throughout the series, which featured several intense exchanges between them, including Morris getting ejected for a flagrant foul 2 on Doncic during Los Angeles' series-clinching Game 6 victory.
Doncic eagerly anticipates more fiery competition with Morris in this series.
"He's a hell of a player, hell of a defender," said Doncic, who averaged 31 points, 9.8 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game in last season's series during his first NBA postseason. "Trash talk is always there, and if it's not, you're not really competing. It's going to be great."
Morris wasn't available after L.A.'s 117-112 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, when he was one of several key Clippers who sat out a defeat that prevented them from moving up to the Western Conference's third seed.
After last season's series, Morris strongly denied that he used any dirty tactics against Doncic.
"He's a young player; he's going to be the face of the league in a while. I've taken into account of all that," Morris said. "I have been around for a while; I know how this thing works. If it was anybody else, I don't think it would be taken out of context that way. It is what it is. I am a grown man; I stand on my own. Like I said, I didn't mean to step on his ankle. They can say the stuff that they want to say, this and that, on Twitter, whatever."
Clippers coach Ty Lue, an assistant last season who was promoted after Doc Rivers' departure, immediately mentioned Doncic's ability to control games as the biggest problem the Mavs present to the Clippers.
"We know he's the head of the snake, and it is going to be a tough challenge," Lue said. "But we [got to] give him different looks; can't let him be comfortable."