The thing about stupid shots is, sometimes the other guy just makes more of them.
I'll admit, that is a vast oversimplification of a game that was anything but. If I were to write this recap in emojis, I'd need more than a full 140-character tweet's worth of them. However, if one emoji were to stand out, it would be the hot flame. This game was physical, confounding, chippy, and a whole lotta frustrating, but it was definitely fun.
The first story here, to credit the victors, is the inspired play of the Mavericks' most important free agent additions, Wesley Matthews and Zaza Pachulia. The two new additions complemented the 2010-ish performance by Dallas mainstay Dirk Nowitzki.
Pachulia, with whom Mark Cuban rebounded after being spurned by DeAndre Jordan, was a monster in the middle, finishing with 10 points, 10 boards, and 2 blocks. Those numbers understate his impact on this game. His physicality set the tone for a Mavs team that was champing at the bit to prove it could it thrive without a certain bouncy big man who was still playing in red. Pachulia also acquitted himself well defending Blake Griffin, who is much, much more agile of foot. Griffin had to grind his way to a workmanlike 21/9/3 stat line.
Matthews had his best game for his new franchise, scoring 25 on 9 of 13 shooting from a variety of places. He bullied his way into the post, he flushed stepback midrange jumpers, and he converted three of his four attempts from deep. Matthews also gave Chris Paul all he could ask for at the other end of the floor, and was a major reason why the Clippers' star point guard struggled to a 2 for 11 shooting night.
Dallas' midrange accuracy was stupid good. Dirk was, as he often is, a major impetus for that, but even Dirk rarely makes 11 of his 13 field goal attempts. He nailed 5 of 6 three-point attempts, the last of which banked in from high off the glass and effectively sunk the Clippers.
Don't get me wrong, the Clipper defense was far from perfect tonight, but even on possessions when it was, the Mavs put the ball in the basket anyway, especially during a third-quarter run that turned a one-point halftime deficit into a double-digit lead.
Which is a perfect segue to the second story: the Jekyll-and-Hyde performance of the erratic Clipper bench. The Clippers looked primed to run away with this game early, riding JJ Redick to a large first quarter lead. Then, as they have been wont to do, the bench missed both shots and defensive rotations and the Mavs fought back to the aforementioned narrow halftime deficit.
With JJ Redick leaving the game shortly before halftime never to return -- he suffered a recurrence of his back spasms -- the Clipper starters looked stagnant and disjointed. Every successful third quarter possession ran through Blake Griffin, and talented as he is, a one-man offense is no match for the kind of shooting display the Mavs were simultaneously putting on.
The Mavericks ran their lead to as much as 13 in that third period, but a Clipper reserve unit that included long-armed defender Luc Mbah a Moute and keyed by an impressive Austin Rivers dragged the visitors back into the game. The bench's run lasted well into the fourth quarter and allowed the starters to return to ultimately take a few narrow leads. Unfortunately, those leads would be short lived, as Nowitzki and Matthews would shoot the Clippers down and finally out of this game.
It wasn't that many years ago that the story of this game would've been the Chris Paul-Deron Williams matchup, two star point guards forever associated through their draft status. Williams has played well below star-level for some time due to the accumulation of serious injuries, and smaller nagging injuries may be affecting Paul more than we know as well. So give credit to the young Rivers, whose 16 points and yeoman's work on defense put his hat in the ring for best point guard in this contest, and puts off any talk of nepotism to another night.
The Clippers finally hit some three-pointers, converting 12 of 27 (44.4%)... Paul Pierce made two of his four attempts from deep, but one of his makes was a bank shot, and the two misses were airballs... DeAndre Jordan wasn't noticeably bad, but ultimately had a night to forget. He faced multiple rounds of the Hack-A, made just three of nine free throws, and finished a game-worst -23 in plus/minus... Recent reports list JJ Redick as doubtful for tomorrow night's game in Phoenix.