There’s an old adage that a series doesn’t really start until the road team wins a game. The Clippers and Mavericks took that maxim to the extreme, with the road team winning each of the first six games, but the home team finally prevailed in one.
The Clippers used a 21-2 spurt in the third quarter to take control, finally winning a game in Staples Center, 126-111. They win their first-round series in seven, prevailing over the Mavericks for the second straight season and advancing to face the Utah Jazz.
Ty Lue said pregame, “Tonight will be the night that we finally shoot the ball the way we’re capable of shooting it.” He was right. The lid came off the basket, as the Clippers went 20-of-43 from 3-point range to secure the victory. Marcus Morris Sr. led the way with seven triples, and four other Clippers had multiple threes.
Game 7s are usually a rock fight, and some of that tension was visible in Game 6. But the offenses were flowing from the beginning. Kawhi Leonard looked bouncy to start. He sprinted down the court after stealing a kickout pass from Dorian Finney-Smith early, and he got great elevation on his jumpers. He made his first three shots and demanded extra help. On his first attempt at posting up Luka Dončić, the Mavericks shaded over and got into rotation, giving Nicolas Batum a clean lane to the basket for a dunk.
The Clippers were still down three after the first due to Dončić’s hot shooting, but they regained control at the start of the second, taking advantage of the non-Dončić minutes with Paul George still on the floor. George collapsed the defense by driving into the lane and got the ball swinging on the perimeter. Luke Kennard and Morris each chipped in threes, and when Dallas brought Boban Marjanović back into the game, L.A. had absolutely no trouble carving up the Mavericks zone. It wasn’t just open 3-pointers — the found driving lanes right to the cup and showed no hesitation finishing over whatever Dallas bigs were in the game.
Terance Mann also brought some extra juice, both in the halfcourt and in transition. He splashed a couple of jumpers in isolation and took it to the rack against Dwight Powell, earning an and-one in the process. The Clippers certainly benefited from Mann’s pace, particularly as they finally started to force some turnovers.
The Dallas offense absolutely self-destructed with Jalen Brunson at the helm. Even when Dončić came back in, the Clippers were able to fluster him into uncharacteristically bad entry passes to Marjanović. Those deflections got L.A. motoring in the other direction, and the Clippers took an eight-point lead into halftime.
The start of the third got a bit nervy, as the Mavericks almost instantaneously erased the lead and went up five. But Morris settled the Clippers down with a 3-pointer and the floodgates opened. That jumper kickstarted a 12-0 run that completely changed the tenor of the game. It eventually ballooned to 21-2, and the Clippers took a 15-point lead into the final period. Dallas briefly cut the lead to seven late in the fourth, but Reggie Jackson hit a three on the next possession, and the Clippers could breathe again.
Seven Clippers finished with double-digit points, a testament to the depth of this team. The regular season primed them for this point, as every man on the roster needed to be ready any given night. They were all ready for Game 7, and that’s why the Clippers are moving on to the second round.