As if it was not obvious already, the Dallas Mavericks over the weekend received even more evidence on just how important MVP candidate Luka Doncic is to their cause.

Doncic missed a game for the fourth time this season on Sunday, this one due to left ankle soreness, and the Mavericks were dumped 120-109 by the host Oklahoma City Thunder. The result gave Dallas two defeats in its last three games, and it will now be looking to get back on the winning track when it heads to Los Angeles on Tuesday for a meeting with the Clippers.

In all four games Doncic has missed this season, the Mavericks have lost. And in the most recent instance before Sunday — Dec. 17 at Cleveland — Dallas also lost in Doncic’s return two days later at Minnesota.

Then the next seven games after that, all victories, showcased Doncic’s immense talent. He averaged 41.7 points, 11.0 rebounds and 9.9 assists during the seven-game winning streak, highlighted by a 60-point, 21-rebound, 10-assist performance Dec. 27 against the New York Knicks. He scored 51 points four days later against the San Antonio Spurs.

Without him Sunday, Christian Wood stepped up with 27 points and 16 rebounds, while Spencer Dinwiddie had 21 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 19. Even without their star, however, the Mavericks made no excuses for the defeat.

“I take full responsibility for this loss. I need to be better,” Hardaway said. “Defensively, I take pride on that end of the floor making sure guys are in the right spots and I just got to be better, especially on the second end of a back-to-back without one of our main pieces playing. This all falls on me. That’s just how I feel. And I’ll be better.”

The Mavericks are making the best of their long visit to Los Angeles. Doncic and head coach Jason Kidd attended the College Football Playoff Championship Game on Monday at SoFi Stadium between TCU and Georgia. And Tuesday’s game against the Clippers will come before a Thursday contest against the Lakers.

The Clippers likely won’t be in the mood for outside festivities. Their season-long losing streak was extended to six games when they fell 112-108 to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday. The Clippers trailed by 17 in the second quarter, led by 11 with 6:45 remaining then watched the Hawks close on a 21-6 run.

It is the longest losing streak in the three-season tenure of Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue, who has dealt with a rash of injuries since the campaign began. Paul George (hamstring) and Luke Kennard (calf) both were out against the Hawks.

After Kawhi Leonard sat out a road loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday during the second day of a back-to-back, he returned Sunday to score 29 points in a season-high 38 minutes.

“Tonight’s second half was an example of how we should play defense, but it has to be all 48 minutes,” said Clippers big man Ivica Zubac, who had 17 points and 18 rebounds against the Hawks. “Offensively, we’re figuring some stuff out, so it’s tough, but I got a great group of guys, great coaching, great organization and we know they’re behind us, so we’ll figure it out.”

–Field Level Media