During a practice availability in between Games 1 and 2, Ty Lue said he told his team to get to the paint or die trying, and they certainly heeded those words in Tuesday’s game. If only Lue and the Clippers had a similarly catchy defensive mantra.
The Clippers put together a strong offensive performance, collectively shooting 50/40/90. But once again, they had no prayer of stopping the Mavericks. Dallas made 18-of-34 threes, and that was enough to take the second game in Los Angeles, 127-121.
It was the second straight contest that the Clippers role players were outplayed by their Mavericks counterparts. Dallas rained threes when the Clippers brought extra help to Luka Dončić, and when they single-covered him, Dončić simply made tough shot after tough shot. At one point, he backed down Kawhi Leonard in the post and turned and made a fadeaway. There was no hope.
The Clippers wasted really good nights from Leonard and Paul George. George’s jump shot hasn’t quite arrived in the playoffs, but he has found a way to make an impact. George got his first touch 90 seconds into the game and drove right to the basket. Two points. On the next possession, George did the same thing, and then he ran a pick-and-roll with Ivica Zubac on the play after to get to the cup again. Three drives, three baskets.
Even without any threes, George logged 17 points in the first half. His forays to the rim were always productive, whether he finished, earned free throws, or kicked out to a shooter. The crowning moment of his effort was when he crossed over Kristaps Porzingis, dropped him to the floor, and finished with a dunk and one. George finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists.
George’s running mate was even more prolific. Leonard had 18 points in the first quarter, his most ever in a playoff quarter, and he followed that up with 12 more in the second for a 30-piece at halftime. Leonard bulldozed his way to the rim, had his way in the post, went deep into his bag of fakes, and even pushed the ball in transition more than usual. He ended the night with 41 points on 21 shot attempts.
It was a tour de force performance from the team’s two stars, and all it did was leave the Clippers up two at halftime, 73-71, because L.A. had no idea what it was doing on defense. It was a bad game for Ivica Zubac, who was targeted by the Mavericks repeatedly. He held up as well as could be expected, and wasn’t out of position, but the Clippers messed up their back line rotations.
Serge Ibaka was inexplicably on the bench in the second half after getting into a shouting match with Rajon Rondo earlier in the game. That left the Clippers small, and without some of their better defensive personnel. They also gave away the ball on multiple possessions in the third, resulting in a nine-point deficit after three.
In the fourth quarter, the Clippers couldn’t string together any stops. And when they did finally get close, they went away from what had worked by taking quick shots and giving away possessions.
The Clippers had already given away home court advantage, and now they head to Dallas needing a win just to get back to Los Angeles. We’ll see how they respond.