In case you thought the LA Clippers would make quick work of their first-round NBA Playoffs series against the Dallas Mavericks, the road will not be without its bumps. The Mavericks tied up the series Wednesday in Game 2, as they led wire-to-wire and a sloppy Clippers performance meant Dallas won 127-114 in Orlando.
The Mavericks were firmly in control from the opening minutes, racing out to a 15-2 lead, but even while playing disjointed basketball early on, LA managed to chip away at the deficit to trail 29-25 after the first quarter.
It was more of the same to finish out the first half, with former Clipper Boban Marjanović coming off the bench and posting a tidy 10 points in seven minutes of action in the second quarter. The Clippers went down by 15 points, but again they slowly came back, with Kawhi Leonard drawing fouls in an attempt to pick up points from the free throw line. The deficit was five at halftime, Dallas leading 61-56.
While Kawhi was grinding to get the Clippers back in the game, and Lou Williams was bringing good production, Paul George struggled mightily in the first half, failing to score at all.
It took some time, but George found a bit of rhythm in the third quarter, hitting a clutch 3-pointer as he kept a play alive and finding some points at the rim after that. But Luka Doncic and Tim Hardaway, Jr. continued to pile up the points for the Mavs in the third quarter, and Dallas maintained and extended the lead, to 98-85, through three quarters played.
In his on-air interview with TNT before the fourth quarter, Doc Rivers said LA needed to play defense or they were going to lose. They struggled to get stops and went cold on offense, aside from Leonard, who tried his hardest to pull the Clippers along.
Once again, LA made a mini-rally in the fourth quarter, but the deficit remained in the double-digits, and Doncic paced the Mavericks with 28 points while only playing 28 points on the night. Leonard had a double-double, with 35 points and 10 rebounds to lead all scorers, but Dallas’ bench was far more productive than the Clippers’, which was a surprise considering the firepower and depth on LA’s bench.
All in all it was a rough performance for the Clippers, but Dallas shot very well on the night, 50 percent from the field and a stellar 44 percent on 3-pointers, while LA shot a poor 29 percent from 3. In a seven-game series, one team can get hot and the other cold on a given night, and that seems to have happened here.
At the same time, the Clippers will fully understand now they can’t take the Mavs lightly. Kristaps Porzingis, Hardaway and Doncic can give them some fits, and if the Clippers aren’t clicking, their opponent can make them pay, just like they did in this game.
We’ll see how Rivers’ team recovers in Game 3, which is scheduled for the same time and place on Friday.