There was a little something extra in the air Tuesday night, right from the get go, between the Clippers and the Mavericks. Facing each other for the second time in three days and with old adversaries Marcus Morris Sr. and Luka Dončić both playing this time around, the encore matchup between these familiar foes brought the energy of the 2021 playoffs back to Staples Center.
The problem is that Dallas won most of those home games, and the Mavericks did it again, earning 112-104 victory in overtime. The Clippers trailed for much of the second half, but completed a furious 11-1 rally in the final 90 seconds to force overtime, capped by a Paul George game-tying three at the buzzer.
Alas, the Clippers used all their energy in the fourth and couldn’t score a field goal in the extra period. George had the only point on a technical free throw, finishing with 26 to match Dončić, as the home team went out quietly.
It was still a tremendously entertaining game, and it got off to a rare hot start for the Clippers. That burst was powered by none other than Morris, who hit his first triple from his favorite spot in the corner — much to the delight of every fan and staffer in the building. Reggie Jackson poured in his highest-scoring first quarter in two weeks en route to 31 total, his Clipper high, and even chipped in some noteworthy defensive plays, essentially playing center field on that end of the floor.
Jackson rotated to the basket to deflect a lob pass to Dwight Powell, he had a couple of steals on skip passes, and he forced a turnover at halfcourt that led to the highlight of the first half, when Ivica Zubac whipped a behind-the-back pass to Terance Mann. Jackson was so impressed with Zubac’s vision that he bestowed his goggles upon Zubac during the ensuing stoppage.
The game devolved into a bit of a slugfest after the opening burst, though. The Clippers committed a parade of turnovers, mostly of the unforced variety, several on attempted lob passes that led to nowhere. Their 10 turnovers led to 10 points for Dallas, and a very unhappy Ty Lue on the bench, who sat down after a particularly bad offensive possession and leaned back in his seat like a teenager in their least favorite high school class.
The Clippers were able to weather the storm thanks to some stellar defense, and the good fortune of having the Mavericks miss their first 13 3-pointers. But Dončić broke that streak with 38.3 seconds in the half, and the Clippers only escaped with a six-point lead heading into intermission.
It continued to be far too difficult for the Clippers to generate offense in the third quarter. Paul George was able to get his head down and earn seven free-throw attempts in the period, and Jackson lit up for 14 points, but there was too little ball movement, and nothing generated from the bench. Isaiah Hartenstein got the backup center minutes in lieu of Serge Ibaka, but that stagnant offensive ecosystem did him no favors.
Meanwhile, Dončić got going, adding 14 points of his own plus four assists as Dallas made six threes in the third. He personally baptized Hartenstein with one of his patented step-back triples from the left wing, a shot most defenders are powerless against. Dončić’s outburst was particularly frustrating because he picked up his fourth foul less than a minute into the quarter, and the Clippers failed to attack him defensively. On one possession, Dončić was backpedaling against George in transition, but George swung the ball to the other side.
The Clippers’ only real burst of offense came in that final minute of change, but that wasn’t enough to get the win. At least the team gets two days off over the Thanksgiving holiday.