The Clippers took part in the best game of the postseason Sunday, but they ended up on the losing end, as Luka Doncic hit a step-back 3-pointer over Reggie Jackson to give the Mavericks the 135-133 win in Game 4. That single shot turned a 3-1 series deficit into a 2-2 tie, setting the stage for a pivotal Game 5 Tuesday.
Early on, it didn’t seem like the Clippers would even be in a clutch situation down the stretch. Kristaps Porzingis was ruled out shortly before tip-off with a knee injury, and the Clippers capitalized on the absence of Dallas’ second-best player from the get-go. The revamped starting lineup continued to look comfortable on the offensive end, and they were locked in defensively, able to direct more attention towards Doncic.
The lead bumped up to 21 points in the second quarter before the Clippers took their foot off the gas, and the Mavericks got going against LA’s bench defense. Doncic was able to work his way into the paint, and Dallas made four 3-pointers in the second in addition to earning 11 free-throw attempts. After figuring out how to contain Boban Marjanovic with Ivica Zubac, Doc Rivers made the curious decision to match Boban’s minutes with Montrezl Harrell in this game, and the physicality proved to be too much Harrell and the Clippers to deal with.
Dallas continued to heat up on the offensive end, and the Clippers got too jump-shot happy. They took 11 shots in the paint in each of the first two quarters, but only five paint attempts in the third quarter. Meanwhile, the Mavericks guards, specifically Trey Burke and Seth Curry in addition Doncic, managed to beat the Clippers defense off the dribble, setting up shop in the lane. What was once a 21-point lead turned into a 12-point deficit with nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
At that point, the Clippers turned to a tried-and-true source for late-game offense: Lou Williams. Williams scored 13 points in the fourth quarter and changed the momentum of the game by getting the offense moving towards the basket. he was unguardable in isolation, made 5-of-7 shots in the period, including two free throws to tie the game late and send it into overtime.
Williams was aided by another standout performance by Kawhi Leonard late. Leonard got to his spots at will, easily creating space to get midrange jumpers despite reasonable resistance from Maxi Kleber. He added nine points in the fourth quarter and another four in overtime, but his most impactful play would have been his assist to Marcus Morris Sr. on the team’s final offensive possession. The defense collapsed on Leonard in the lane, and he hit Morris in the corner for a 3-pointer to put LA up one.
Alas, that lead was short-lived. The Clippers used their foul to give to leave Dallas down one with 3.7 seconds left. Doncic got the ball and was switched onto Jackson with Kleber occupying Leonard. Despite entering the game on a bum ankle and playing nearly 46 minutes, Doncic had the legs to hit a deep three and change the complexion of this series.
On to Game 5.