Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic downplayed the impact of his cervical strain on a Game 4 outing he described as "terrible," but he acknowledged after Sunday's 106-81 loss to the visiting LA Clippers that it's a nerve issue.
"The pain is like neck and then the nerve down," Doncic said. "I don't really know how to explain that. It felt way better today morning than yesterday. I'll just keep doing massages, ice it down and then be ready for Wednesday."
Doncic's neck strain was already being described as "improved" Monday, sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Doncic was limited to 19 points on 9-of-24 shooting and six assists in the series-tying defeat. He averaged 38 points and nine assists while shooting 51.9% from the floor in the first three games of the Western Conference first-round series.
On several occasions during Sunday's contest, Doncic grimaced in pain, sometimes doubling over. He did so in the middle of an offensive possession in the second quarter after firing a pass from the right wing to the left corner.
"He's in pain," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "It appeared to me that he couldn't turn left, couldn't look to his left. He couldn't turn his neck to his left, and that's difficult for a guy that relies on peripheral vision and basically has played his whole life with his head on a swivel.
"We've got to hope in the next couple of days that he can get better, hopefully substantially better. There is a two-day break between games, which is a positive in this case."
Doncic's neck started bothering him around halftime of the Mavs' Game 3 loss, during which he had 44 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. He said the pain began shooting down his left arm.
Doncic was listed as questionable for Game 4, but there was little doubt he would play. He declined to discuss how the injury impacted his performance.
"I don't think that matters right now," Doncic said. "We lost. Injuries are part of basketball, but I was 100 percent. I played terrible, so just gotta move on to next one."