Tue. Feb 27th, 2024

Another contentious Dallas-Phoenix meeting for Mavericks superstar Luka Dončić went beyond the court Wednesday night.

The four-time All-Star was responsible for a fan being ejected in the third quarter after the Suns supporter yelled that Dončić was tired and needed to get on a treadmill.

Phoenix beat Dallas, 132-109, after outscoring the Mavericks 43-20 in the third quarter.

Dončićc made headlines early in the 2021-22 season when retired Hall of Fame guard Reggie Miller, a TV analyst, said during a telecast of a Mavericks game that Dončić looked overweight.

Dallas coach Jason Kidd conceded as much later in the season by saying Miller did the Mavs a favor with his observation. Dallas beat Phoenix in a seven-game series in the Western Conference semifinals later that season.

After the comment Wednesday night, Dončić immediately turned and pointed in the direction of the fan, who was wearing a Devin Booker No. 1 Suns jersey. A few minutes later, the fan was ejected.

Dončić took issue with reporters saying the ejection was based on the comment about the treadmill.

“So it was the only time, that time he said something, the only time?” Dončić said in a contentious exchange with one reporter.

“Yeah, I was hearing the whole first half, right? You put out something that was just the only thing,” Dončić said, referring to a post during the game on X, formerly Twitter.

Dončić said he didn’t ask for the fan to be ejected in the first half because he didn’t think it would happen, since fans pay to get in.

“He was cursing me the whole first half, too,” Dončić said. “But I had enough of him. It was a little bit of frustration.”

Kidd wasn’t aware of the sequence that led to the fan’s ejection, but has been vocal the past two games about his players losing focus over things like calls by the officials.

Kidd didn’t specifically mention Dončić after a 119-110 loss to Boston two nights earlier. But he was asked specifically about Dončić after the loss to the Suns that included the Slovenian star getting a technical after the first-half buzzer. Dončić also got a technical against the Celtics.

Dončić was without All-Star sidekick Kyrie Irving against the Suns as the Mavs lost for the fourth time in five games.

“You could see Boston, he was running hot,” Kidd said. “And tonight he was running hot. We’ll talk to him about it. He’s a competitor. He likes to have discussions with the referees. But he has to be better.”

Each of the past three seasons, Dončić, who turns 25 next month, has flirted with the limit of 16 technicals before a one-game suspension kicks in. He has eight just past the halfway point of this season.

“His focus has improved,” Kidd said. “His maturity has improved. We’re asking him to do a lot every night. And he’s one that’s always up to the challenge. I think giving him that space to be that creative, to be that Picasso, the painter that we think he is, and there’s going to be nights when he doesn’t have enough paint, or he has the wrong brush. He’s human. But there’s no excuse. We all have to be better.”

The Mavs and Suns have had several chippy meetings since the 2022 playoff series. There were seven technicals Wednesday night, although six of them were by players not around for Dallas’ shocking Game 7 blowout in Phoenix almost two years ago.

“I just think when teams have a recent playoff series against each other, that just heightens the atmosphere and heightens everything,” said Booker, who has been caught up in trash talk in previous meetings but wasn’t part of the latest drama while scoring 46 points. “I have no personal problem with anybody from Dallas, no fans or anything.”

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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