— The Clippers were flat for most of the game: This was especially evident early in the third quarter when Dallas threatened to blow the game wide open. Los Angeles was the team that looked like it was on a SEGABABA, not Dallas. Rotations were lackadaisical, and there wasn't much penetration offensively.
— Once again, the bench unit flipped a switch in the second half: It's starting to become inexplicable. Yet again, the Clippers' second unit blew a lead in the first half (ten points in this game) before coming up huge in the second half and arguably outplaying the starters. Down 84-70 late in the third, a flurry of points from Austin Rivers, Wesley Johnson, and Co. set up a competitive fourth quarter. In the first half, they couldn't hit layups, but when they were needed most, every shot started falling.
Rivers and Johnson were fantastic tonight (and Johnson needs more playing time, as has been painfully evident in the early going this season).
— Luc Richard Mbah a Mouté was the unsung hero tonight: J.J. Redick left after the first half with back spasms and didn't return, pressing Jamal Crawford into starting duties in the second half. This had a silver lining — Doc had to rest Crawford and couldn't play him with the bench, so he instead brought in LRMAM alongside Rivers, Johnson, Paul Pierce, and Josh Smith. The lineup was fantastic defensively, creating a slew of turnovers leading to fast break points that got the Clippers back into the game. LRMAM played great defense on a white-hot Dirk Nowitzki too on a few possessions. With four plus defenders, the bench was able to forge an identity as an athletic defensive menace.
— Doc has to stop playing Jamal and Pierce together: They're the two worst defenders in the rotation by far (and arguably the only two minus defenders). Both of them are getting overplayed individually (although Pierce had a decent game tonight despite two embarrassing airballs), but even worse is when Doc insists on playing them together, as he did in the fourth. Going away from the athletic defensive units that got the Clippers back into the game doomed them, as Dallas exploited Pierce and Crawford down the stretch (even moreso when DeAndre Jordan was forced to sit due to hacking, putting Pierce at the 4 where he was bullied by Zaza Pachulia).
At some point, Doc has to realize that playing these two together is suicidal unless they're on fire offensively. Right?
— Tomorrow might be a schedule loss: Phoenix hasn't played since Sunday and will be eager to get revenge on Los Angeles, while the Clippers are banged up. Chris Paul is noticeably hampered by a growing list of ailments (groin, fingers, eyes, etc.), and there's a possibility both he and Redick sit tomorrow.
Perspective, though. The Clippers are still 5-3 (tied for third in the West), and a lot of moving parts are still coming together. Tonight's loss was frustrating, but 74 more games remain out there for the taking.