On a night when the LA Clippers chose to give out free “ugly” shirts to fans and the weather outside Staples Center was ugly (for LA standards), the Clippers and Mavericks played as ugly as those shirts. It’s the type of game you would expect from a team missing it’s two best players, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, and another team that has been struggling all year long with a “rusty” star in Dirk Nowitzki, playing his first game in almost a month. It was a game with both teams probably thinking ahead to the holiday, and it showed.
The game got off to a chippy start, as JJ Redick felt that he got fouled by Wesley Matthews on the opening possession. With no call, Redick rushed back to give an intentional foul to Matthews, which triggered a review by the refs. Redick would answer with a 3-pointer, and would be aggressive for much of the quarter, although that aggressiveness would lead to 3 turnovers. A bright spot for the Clippers early on was Austin Rivers, who continued with his recent solid play by hitting 2 3-pointers.
The second quarter was more of the same, with the Clippers failing to pull away from the Mavericks, and continuing their sloppy play early on. Lucky for them, the Mavs didn’t do much better, but the Clippers didn’t take advantage. They were sloppy, committing turnover after turnover, while Nowitzki, playing his first game since Nov. 25, looked like he hadn’t missed a step, scoring a game high 17 points in the first half. Part of his success in the first half was the Clippers willingness to switch on almost every pick. This meant that Raymond Felton was tasked with stopping one of the best shooters in NBA history, one that is about a foot taller than Felton. On the plays that Felton didn’t end up guarding Nowitzki, Jordan failed to run out on Dirk. The half ended with the Clippers up 51-50, but the poor play by the Clippers throughout the first half gave hope to a team that really shouldn’t have felt that there was a chance, and meant that the Clippers would have to play a full 48 minutes.
The Clippers came out of the locker room with some energy, with JJ Redick hitting a quick 3 pointer to start the half, but after a couple of minutes, they were back to the mediocre play that plagued them in the first half. Missed shots and turnovers stopped them from pulling away. The Mavs weren’t any better, as they missed open three after open three, restricting their chances of regaining the lead. With Nowitzki stuck on the bench in the second half with a minute restriction, the remainder of the Mavs struggled to make any shots. The Clippers would end the quarter on top, 72-66, but you could sense that the fans at Staples Center were a bit nervous.
The fourth quarter was more of the same, with the Clippers allowing the Mavs to hang around. Jamal Crawford was the 4th quarter star for the Clippers, but the Clippers inability to grab defensive rebounds hurt the team, and they allowed numerous second chance opportunities to the Mavs. The Mavericks would eventually take a short lived 1 point lead on a Deandre Jordan goaltend, before Crawford restored the Clippers lead on the next possession, 85-84. The Mavs would tie the game with about 2 minutes remaining, but Rivers would answer right back with a 3 pointer, giving the Clippers the lead 88-85. The Mavs would tie the game again with 33 seconds left in the game, when Wesley Matthews made 1 of 2 free throws. DJ had an opportunity to give the Clippers the lead again from the free throw line, but missed both, giving the Mavs a chance for the win. Harrison Barnes, the Mavericks big money off-season acquisition, came up big in the closing minutes, and gave the Mavs the victory.
In the end, the Clippers played down to their competition, and lost to the team that had the better ugly game. The Clips failure on the defensive boards hurt the team. Now, the Clippers have to look to Christmas night against the Lakers to get back on their winning ways.