What a difference two days makes.
On Friday, the Clippers were down 2-0 and hemorrhaging points en route to a 19-point first-quarter deficit. Now, they’re even in their first-round series and appear to have figured out the Mavericks after a comprehensive 106-81 rout in Dallas.
Kawhi Leonard was his usual metronomically efficient self, hitting his first six shots from the field and finishing with 29 points on 11-of-15 shooting as well as 3 assists, 2 blocks, and 1 steal. Paul George added 20 points and 9 rebounds.
L.A. has been hampered by slow starts thus far in this series. That wasn’t the case in Game 4, as the Clippers finally played like the better team from the jump.
The Clippers kept their starting lineup from the second half of Game 3, keeping Nic Batum in place of Ivica Zubac. That set in motion a cat and mouse game between the two teams.
The Mavericks responded by bringing in Boban Marjanovic for Kristaps Porzingis to provide more of a big presence. That then forced the Clippers to play Zubac, which is what Dallas wanted all along with Luka Dončić on the court.
But no matter which lineups were on the floor, the Clippers defended expertly. The reason to pick L.A. heading into this series was a belief that the Clippers had the weapons to stop the Mavericks, and that’s been on display over the past seven quarters.
Dallas was admittedly hindered by Dončić’s injury, but the Clippers deserved plenty of credit for their activity on the defensive end. Batum set the tone with his deflections and positioning, and the rest of the team followed suit. L.A. limited the Mavericks to 38 percent shooting in the first half and 3-of-16 from 3-point range. Some of that was a natural regression to the mean, and some of that was the Clippers closing out harder, applying pressure, and generally doing their part to turn off the faucet.
The Clippers had a 16-point lead at halftime and then just stopped on Dallas’ throats to start the second half, extending the advantage to 24 seemingly in the blink of an eye. It didn’t matter what the Mavericks did from that point on, they just didn’t have the horses to compete with the Clippers.
The game was equally lopsided on the other end of the floor, as Leonard and George repeatedly blew by their individual defenders. Due to the five-out L.A. lineup, Dallas had no rim protection at that point (not that they really did before).
The lead dipped below 20 midway through the fourth quarter, and the Clippers simply responded with two Reggie Jackson threes. They had answers for everything the Mavericks tried to do through the end.
Heading back to Los Angeles, the Clippers once again look like comfortable favorites in this matchup. Order has been restored in the series.