DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks have already lost twice this season to the San Antonio Spurs without All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard.
Now the Mavs (7-20) look to be the first team to face the Spurs with Leonard, who has yet to play this season because of an injury that the team has only labeled as left quadriceps tendinopathy.
If Leonard does make his debut, it will be his first action since May 14, when he sprained his ankle in San Antonio’s Game 1 defeat of the Western Conference finals. The Golden State Warriors ended up sweeping the series with Leonard out.
Asked after Monday’s practice if Leonard would be in the lineup, guard Tony Parker told the San Antonio Express-News, “I guess. I don’t know. We’ll see tomorrow. … He’s looking good and practicing with us.”
San Antonio has managed to fare rather well without Leonard, going 19-8 and riding and four-game win streak into Dallas, including a 105-102 win over the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics.
At the end of the team’s Monday practice, reporters observed a sweat-soaked Leonard, a clear indication that he is certainly on the cusp of playing.
The Spurs posted on their Twitter account Monday afternoon that Leonard and Danny Green are probable for Tuesday night’s game at Dallas.
Spurs center Pau Gasol acknowledged that Leonard will be traveling with the team.
“Let’s see if they make the call to clear him and play,” Gasol told the Express-News. “If it happens, great. If it happens the next game (at Houston on Friday), great. We’re excited to have him back and see how he feels.”
Meanwhile, the Mavs didn’t get the injury news they were hoping for Monday. Coach Rick Carlisle said Dennis Smith Jr. will miss his third consecutive game Tuesday because of a left hip strain. He will be re-evaluated on Wednesday.
Smith, averaging 14.4 points, 4.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds, will miss his fifth game of the season. Dallas is 0-4 without their starting point guard, although three of the losses have come by seven points or fewer.
That was the case in the Mavs’ two previous games, a seven-point loss at Milwaukee followed by a five-point loss at Minnesota. Dallas has made it a theme this season of playing just well enough to lose at the end of games.
“It feels like we’re shooting ourselves in the foot,” forward Dirk Nowitzki told reporters after Sunday’s loss to the Timberwolves. “Every time we’re right there, you know, it’s a bad turnover, a guy makes a tough shot, or they make a layup after we don’t box out. It’s just little things here and there, and three tough ballgames in a row.”
The Mavs went 0-3 on their just-completed road trip and held fourth-quarter leads in all three, including the road opener at Boston.
But it’s not like they’ve have had an abundance of home cooking on their own floor, either. Dallas is just 5-10 at American Airlines Center. And it won’t be easy Tuesday night against the Spurs — with or without Leonard.
“We’re going to keep plugging,” Nowitzki said. “There’s a lot of season left and I promise you this: We’re going to be in this position more times than not again and hopefully sooner than later, we’ll pull some out.”