Mavs' Luka Doncic (thigh) set for MRI after early exit vs. Pels

NEW ORLEANS -- Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic walked slowly into the postgame media room Wednesday night and cautiously took his seat at the podium.

He had departed his team's 113-106 loss at New Orleans in the third quarter because of a left thigh strain, something that has been bothering him for some time.

When asked how the thigh felt, Doncic chuckled: "It's not good."

Doncic said he would undergo an MRI on Thursday to determine the severity of the injury. Doncic had mentioned soreness in the thigh when speaking to reporters following Saturday's game against the Phoenix Suns but said Wednesday the injury has been lingering for longer than that.

"I think it was the second game after the All-Star break," Doncic said. "Something like that."

The Mavs' second game after the All-Star break was against the San Antonio Spurs, a 142-116 victory for Dallas. Doncic said he woke up the morning after the game and his thigh was hurting.

"I don't think so, because normally I'd get hit in the thigh," Doncic said when asked if he has had an injury like this before. "This one, I didn't get hit. So this is kind of weird for me. I don't really know what it is."

Asked when it affects him the most, Doncic replied, "Just getting my rhythm. Running. I can feel it mostly on the jump shots because you need both legs. So pushing off has been really hard for me."

On the possession prior to his checking out Wednesday night, Doncic attempted a 15-foot jumper from the left side that hit the back of the rim. He slowly jogged up the court in pain and came out of the game at the next stoppage of play, with 2:29 remaining in the third quarter.

Doncic said he felt fine in the first quarter but noticed the injury getting worse as the game progressed.

In the three games that followed the one against San Antonio on Feb. 23, Doncic performed at his usual level -- shooting 53.6% from the field during a stretch that was capped by a 42-point, 12-assist game against the Philadelphia 76ers on March 2.

But in Doncic's most recent two games prior to Wednesday, against the Suns and then facing the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, he was a combined 18-of-46 from the floor and 5-of-20 from 3-point range.

Against the Pelicans, Doncic was 4-of-14 overall and 1-of-5 from deep. He attempted just two shots during the third quarter before checking out. He also missed all five of his shot attempts in the second quarter -- the most attempts he has had without a make in any quarter all season.

Wednesday also marked the first back-to-back Doncic had played since Dec. 5-6.

Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said the thigh was clearly bothering Doncic when he was forced to leave the game.

"Yeah, I think we all can see he is not moving well," Kidd said. "Shooting, defense, it's affecting everything. He's trying to fight through it and help his teammates, but he had to leave there. Hopefully it's not something serious. We have a couple days here before we play Memphis, so hopefully he's back soon."

The Mavs play at the Grizzlies on Saturday.

Also worrisome for Doncic: He picked up his 15th technical foul with 4:51 to play in the first quarter. A 16th technical would trigger an automatic one-game suspension.

"I think we all know, he knows, too, that he's one away from the suspension," Kidd said. "So he has to be better. But we all have to be better. We all complain about calls during the game. Referees may see some, miss some. It's all a part of the game. But we all have to be better."

Doncic said he's "trying to be better" when it comes to talking to officials and technical fouls, but he also knows what's at stake.

"For me, it's hard," Doncic said. "It's just the passion of trying to win games. But for sure, I got to get better."