DALLAS — Luka Doncic fouled out with over four minutes remaining in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Dallas cut the deficit down to three points before ultimately losing 106-99. One can only wonder how the outcome may have changed had the Mavs superstar not fouled out.

Luka wasn't pleased about the situation to say the least.

“We couldn’t play physical… I don’t want to say nothing,” Doncic said after the game. “Six fouls in the NBA Finals. C’mon man. Be better than that.”

Doncic later commented further on fouling out during the defeat.

“We had a good chance. We were close. Just didn't get it. I wish I was down there.”

Doncic finished the game with 27 points, six rebounds, and six assists. He struggled on the defensive end of the floor, however. Kyrie Irving, who led the Mavs with 35 points, made it clear that the team has Doncic's back.

“It’s easy to point the finger at just him,” Irving said. “Say ‘you could be better.’ And that’s easy to say. I think he knows that. It’s just reiterating that I got his back, and we all have his back. It's a tough game. It was a tough call.

“We could have probably done something different on his fifth foul just to give us a little bit more of a grace period to set our defense and get him on a matchup. Hindsight's 20-20. We just gotta wash our hands of this and get ready for Game 4.”

How Luka Doncic fouling out impacted Mavericks in Game 3

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) is called for a blocking foul against Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) to foul out during the fourth quarter in game three of the 2024 NBA Finals at American Airlines Center.
Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

It goes without saying, but losing Doncic negatively impacted the Mavs. How did the team respond, though?

“I don't think I really had a choice (to step up after Doncic fouled out),” Irving said. “You know, it was unfortunate that the foul was called. Luka picked up his fifth and sixth… It's tough. But we still had to figure out a way to win the basketball game, put our best foot forward, especially being down 21. We easily could have packed up and folded, but we didn't give up.”

“Next man up mentality,” Dereck Lively II added. “No matter if I foul out, no matter if Luka fouls out or Kai, it's a next man up mentality. No matter who's on the floor, no matter what's going on in the game, we are all putting our heart and soul in trying to win.

“I feel like we did an amazing job throughout the whole game, even though when we slipped up, we were staying together… And we were trying to do whatever we could to try to win… We got to take care of the little things.”

The Mavs are in a difficult spot down 3-0 in the NBA Finals. Luka Doncic's defensive effort was far from ideal, but it is easy to forget that he's been battling injuries throughout the postseason. Luka is never going to make excuses, but the criticism he's received from media pundits may be excessive.

After all, Doncic, at just 25 years old, has already led the Mavericks to the Western Conference Finals twice and the NBA Finals once. Maybe the Mavs will come back and win the 2024 NBA Finals, or maybe they won't. Either way, Doncic's NBA career is off to a terrific start.

The Mavs will embark upon trying to erase their current 3-0 NBA Finals deficit on Friday.