During the postseason, much of the story of the LA/Dallas matchup was that the Clippers would build big leads and always let the Mavericks back into the game. That pattern was somewhat on display in the first half, as the Clippers went up by 14 and then surrendered the lead to the Mavericks in the second quarter.
But once the second half begun, the Clippers didn’t mess around. They stayed ahead for the entirety of the final two quarters, led by Kawhi Leonard, who had some extra bounce in his step. Leonard had 14 second-half points to finish with 22 total. He also added eight rebounds, seven assists, and four steals, part of 15 Dallas turnovers that led to 15 points for the Clippers.
Kawhi Leonard dunks on Kristaps Porzingis pic.twitter.com/SZ1Ph1YFHR— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) March 16, 2021
The Clippers were forced to debut a new starting lineup with Serge Ibaka out after suffering back tightness against New Orleans Sunday, which meant Ivica Zubac moved into the first five. However, Ty Lue also decided to play Marcus Morris Sr. in place of Nicolas Batum, a matchup that worked quite well for the Clippers during last year’s opening round of the playoffs.
Morris made Lue’s decision pay off early, as he was the only Clipper to score in double figures in the first half. He went into the break with 12 points, four rebounds, and two assists, and LA was a team-high plus-15 in his minutes. Although Morris only added two points in the second half, he was another strong defender to throw at Luka Doncic, who ended the game shooting 9-of-23 with seven turnovers.
The other Clippers spot starter, Zubac, was similarly impactful. With the team’s defensive scheme, Zubac also found himself switched onto Doncic on many occasions, and he held up well. Zubac also delivered some force that was lacking for the Clippers Sunday, taking seven shots directly at the basket and leading both teams with 11 rebounds.
The Clippers were up 11 in the fourth quarter before the Mavericks inevitably made their run, fueled by some threes from Tim Hardaway Jr. But the Clippers kept their composure. Paul George attacked the basket, Leonard made plays at both ends, and even Lou Williams had some key takeaways on defense. And then George put Dallas away for good with a 3-pointer in the final minute, just his second of the game.
LA is now 7-0 on the second night back-to-backs, the only team in the league undefeated in that scenario. And now they get a pissed off Dallas team again on Wednesday.