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Doncic out against Warriors due to knee soreness with Mavericks in tight West playoff race

Luka Doncic Dallas Mavericks Luka Doncic - The Canadian Press

DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic is out for a key game in the Western Conference playoff race, sitting the second night of a back-to-back Friday because of right knee soreness.

Doncic will miss the second meeting with Golden State in four days as the MVP candidate and league scoring leader tries to guide the Mavs into a guaranteed playoff spot in the top six in the West.

The quick rematch with the Warriors comes a night after Dallas' 109-95 victory over Atlanta.

The back-to-back was the result of a shuffling of the schedule after two Golden State games were postponed following the death of assistant coach Dejan Milojevic in January.

One of the makeup games was Tuesday in California, with the Warriors beating the Mavs 104-100. Dallas had won 11 consecutive games with Doncic in the lineup and seven straight overall going into that loss.

The Mavs and Warriors were originally scheduled to play Tuesday in Dallas, but that meeting was pushed to Friday while the Atlanta game was moved up a day to Thursday.

Doncic is averaging 33.8 points, 9.8 assists and 9.2 rebounds, and is leading the Mavs on a 12-2 surge that had them alone in fifth in the West to start the night.

The five-time All-Star is expected to be available for a Sunday afternoon home game against Houston. Without Doncic, the focus turns again to backcourt mate Kyrie Irving, an eight-time All-Star.

“We've played without Luka. We've played without Kai,” coach Jason Kidd said. “We've had injuries. And that's how you have to look at it. That's what we're doing. It's next man up.”

The race for the final two guaranteed spots in the West playoffs is far from over, with five teams separated by 2 1/2 games going into Friday's action. Four of those teams entered Friday with six games remaining.

The Warriors are also playing a back-to-back after taking a big step toward clinching a spot in the play-in tournament with a 133-110 victory at Houston.

Andrew Wiggins is out with left ankle soreness. Jonathan Kuminga (knee) and Gary Payton II (ankle) were expected to play after being listed as questionable.