You would expect a Game 5 in a 2-2 series to be a battle, and that’s just what we got on Wednesday as the LA Clippers hosted the Dallas Mavericks, but once again the road team won on the night, with the Mavs coming away 105-100 winners at Staples Center.
Luka Doncic had a monster game for Dallas, with 42 points, and while the Clippers had great stretches in the game and played a balanced approach to relative success, they went cold one too many times and now are one game away from their season ending.
Ty Lue started Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr., Nicolas Batum, Paul George and Reggie Jackson in this game. The start was cagey, as expected, with Doncic getting hot early but the Clippers staying right with the Mavericks.
But Doncic got really hot and by the time the 1st quarter ended he already had 19 points and the Mavs led LA by seven points, 35-28. Given some of the other game deficits, seven points wasn’t too bad through one frame of the game.
Morris got shaken up a few minutes into the 2nd quarter, and after seeing the trainer briefly on the court, he got up and continued in the game. He managed a lay-up a couple minutes later so he seemed like he was capable of continuing on.
The Clippers’ 3-pointers were falling in the 1st quarter, but in the 2nd they really got serious about going inside and scoring in the paint, with far more players getting in on the act than what we often see from this team.
Meanwhile, Doncic hit a cold spell in the 2nd quarter, and the Clippers finally grabbed the lead with 2:38 before halftime, Leonard burying a deep shot to make it 51-49.
The teams traded leads into the break, with Dallas leading 56-54 at the half. Doncic had 27 points at that point, but the Clippers were far more balanced in their scoring, with Leonard, Morris and George in double-figures.
No surprise, the 3rd quarter continued to be a battle with the teams trading baskets. In particular, the Mavericks played Boban Marjanovic real minutes to open up the quarter and the Clippers swarmed him several times, perhaps a bit too much, but the referees let them do it.
The Clippers took a six-point lead a couple times, but Dallas hung tough and grabbed a 14-point lead themselves to close out the quarter, the Clippers running cold at a bad moment.
So it was a rough close to the 3rd quarter for LA, with the Mavericks leading 89-75, the final three and a half minutes Dallas going on a 22-3 run, and the Clippers giving themselves a big hole to try to climb out of in the final stanza.
Both teams were streaky in this game and Dallas lost a bit of their heat to start the 4th quarter but the Clippers had their work cut out for them to actually get back into the game. They tried to chip away by drawing fouls and George in particular picked up his effort after spending the 3rd quarter in foul trouble.
They managed to slow down the Mavs and pull within four points with just under six minutes to play, giving LA hope they could complete the comeback.
But the Mavericks had another rally to put the game away and seemingly take Game 5, running out 10-point leaders with just over two minutes to play. Still, LA wouldn’t give up and Leonard grabbed an and-1 with 39 seconds left to make it a 101-100 game, the Mavs barely hanging on.
Terance Mann made a steal on the next possession and drove to the basket on the fast break, but he kicked the ball out at the rim and the Clippers never got a shot on the play, a foul at the other end helping Dallas make it a three-point game with 8.8 seconds to go.
Leonard took a 3-pointer on the next possession but it was a contested look and he was way off, with time to go, and a foul meant the Mavs iced the game once and for all at the foul line.
It turned out to be a battle but it’s not a lot of fun being on the wrong side of an intense game like that. George had 23 points to lead Clippers players, while Leonard had 20, but each of the stars posted five turnovers on the night. In a two-possession game, those turnovers ended up being huge and may have swung the game.
These teams will be back in action on Friday in Game 6, that one taking place in Dallas. If the road team continues to prevail, that will be a good omen for the Clippers, but their backs are firmly against the wall now. The pressure is real.