The Los Angeles Clippers endured a nightmare opening six minutes to Game 3 against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday at American Airlines Center, but bounced back and effectively kept their season alive after winning 118-108.
The Clippers stars stepped up and produced with their backs against the wall, and the supporting cast also finally got in gear in the series. Despite going down 19 points in the 1st quarter and the Mavericks entering the game unbeaten this season when they win the 1st quarter, LA found their footing and finally, finally looked a team that belonged in the playoffs.
Reggie Jackson entered the starting five in place of Patrick Beverley for the Clippers, otherwise it was the same unit we’ve come to expect from Ty Lue.
But the game started much like the last two have gone, with Luke Doncic hitting three straight shots from the outside with Ivica Zubac guarding him, as Dallas jumped out to an 8-0 start for the night. After Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a shot, Paul George finally got the Clips on the board at 11-2.
But that kind of tells you the story, the Mavericks rolled and the Clippers were down 20-6 before the 1st quarter was half over. The Mavs were jacked up to play at home and the Clippers looked like they got hit by a truck, basically.
But they started to claw their way back from there — with Doncic taking an early break, it must be said — and LA went on an 14-0 run to get to 30-25, finally showing some fight in the game.
After Doncic returned to the game, a scuffle broke out a couple minutes later, and Doncic and Patrick Beverley were both issued technical fouls. On the next play at the other end, Terance Mann went up for a dunk and Willie Cauley-Stein bodied him hard, Mann hitting the floor awkwardly. Cauley-Stein got a Flagrant 1 foul on the play.
The Clippers made it a game, ending an epic 1st quarter down just three points, 34-31.
The 2nd quarter remained close and LA finally took the lead, at 45-44, around the midpoint of the frame. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard started heating up, although again, the rally really happened with Doncic off the floor.
ATTACK THE PAINT— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) May 29, 2021
PG battling with 20 points (9-11 FG) in 17 minutes of play. pic.twitter.com/5OI7iEqZM3
The game remained tight until halftime, Reggie Jackson scoring two 3-pointers in the final minute to help give the Clippers a four-point lead, but Doncic hit a midrange shot to make it 63-61 in the Clippers’ favor at the break.
In the 2nd half the stars’ duel continued, with Doncic, Leonard and George all scoring freely in the 3rd quarter and the game remaining close. The Clippers did a great job of getting into the paint in this game, trying to mix up their approach and not getting comfortable only bombing 3-pointers and letting the offense get static.
The end of the 3rd quarter was pretty frantic, but with George picking up a fourth foul and sitting down, the likes of Mann and Ivica Zubac stepped up down the stretch to help preserve the Clippers’ lead, which was 89-86 through three quarters.
The 4th quarter was a battle, as you’d expect. The Clippers found some traction, getting to 100 first in an effort to invoke Lawler’s Law, and took their biggest lead to that point of the game with a 102-94 edge midway through the final quarter, before Marcus Morris Sr. hit a second 3-pointer in quick succession to make it 105-95 a couple minutes later.
Morris hit another 3-pointer late, then a technical foul for celebrating, then he fouled out with just under three minutes to play, the veteran finally catching fire in the series before being forced out of the game.
Doncic kept it interesting late, as his 3-point stroke returned to him, despite dealing with an apparent shoulder injury for most or all of the game. But the Clippers had enough of a cushion to weather the late rally and they got the win, which they obviously needed.
Leonard had 36 points, second behind Doncic’s 44 for the game, while George added 29 for LA. Jackson added 16, Morris with 15 and again, the guys who saw action all put in important shifts. The series remains alive, at least for another couple games, but they have another must-win coming up.
The next game is Sunday, as these teams are back at it for Game 4 in Dallas. Again, there can’t be a letdown, but if the Clippers play like they did in this game, they can tie up the series. It’s all in their hands.