The Clippers ended their four-game losing streak Thursday night against the Dallas Mavericks, buoyed by Danilo Gallinari’s best game in a Clipper uniform as well as the triumphant return of their fearless closer, Lou Williams.
Williams’ scoring and playmaking were the difference down the stretch for an LA team desperate for a win with the two best teams in the Western Conference (Denver and Golden State) on the docket this weekend. Gallo was the beneficiary of a number of those feeds, including a pocket pass that a cutting Gallinari turned into a reverse dunk with a minute left to put the team up eight and put the game on ice.
Gallinari had his a Clipper career-high with 32 points on a supremely efficient 11-of-16 shooting. Head coach Doc Rivers noted that the Mavericks trapped Lou and Tobias Harris during the teams’ first meeting in Dallas, and they practiced knowing that Gallinari would be the release valve, which he took full advantage of. The forward had a personal 5-0 run when the Mavericks took their biggest lead of the second half at 109-104. He even threw in a jumper fading to his left a la Lou Williams that sent Rick Carlisle into a tizzy as he called for a timeout.
The Clippers seemed much more comfortable with Williams on the floor after two straight close losses to the Trailblazers and the Thunder. Williams was more of a facilitator in the first half, as seven of his eight assists came before the break. In the fourth quarter, he took on a larger scoring load, putting up 13 points, including two free throws to break the tie with 3:09 remaining and give LA the lead for good.
Williams’ presence was also a boon for Montrezl Harrell. Harrell had rediscovered his offensive touch in the last two contests, but seemed newly rejuvenated by having his pick-and-roll partner back on the floor. Half of Lou’s assists went to Harrell, who scored 18 points on 9-of-13 shooting. Harrell looked noticeably amped throughout the game, in a way that has become familiar to Clipper fans. He had five dunks, including one in the fourth quarter on a putback that brought the lid off the roof.
That exclamation dunk came over Harrell’s former teammate and sparring partner in practice, DeAndre Jordan, which may have provided an extra source of motivation for the Clipper reserve. Jordan played his first game in Los Angeles against the Clippers since leaving in the offseason. He got a rousing ovation from the fans and an excellent tribute video, but was obviously peeved to not leave with a win. Counting his games against the Lakers, Jordan is now 0-3 in Staples Center this season.
Jordan had 22 rebounds, but the Mavericks only had 45 as a team, compared to 40 for the Clippers. LA had been outrebounded by 20 in the first game; closing the gap was paramount in earning the victory this time around. The Clippers were able to put up a stronger defensive effort overall, holding their opponents under 50 percent shooting. This is just the second time in the last six games the Clippers have managed this feat.
LA also benefited from a strong start. The Clippers hadn’t been leading after the first quarter since Dec. 3 in New Orleans, but led 30-27 after 12 minutes Thursday. They were boosted by a strong offensive performance from Patrick Beverley, who had eight points in the period. The bench was really able to take control once Williams entered the game. The Mavericks were a little lost on defense in the early going, leaving the paint unmanned on some of LA’s drives.
The Clippers really capitalized on Dallas’ weakness in the middle when Jordan was out of the game. They scored 62 points in the paint, many in the second quarter. Ty Wallace was effective and driving downhill and other Clippers got easy baskets from cutting into the lane.
This felt like a win from November, when the offense was flowing, the bench delivered, and Lou Williams came through in closing time to seal the win. It’s nice to have the formula back in place.