The video game score hardly comes close to accurately summarizing just how absurd this game was.
As has been the case a surprising amount in recent weeks, Dallas is involved in another game with a questionable call(s) late. I won't bother to go into whether the Mavs were "jobbed" by any such calls. In truth, this game was horribly officiated -- on both sides -- all night. The Mavs got the benefit of a few bad whistles, and so did the Clippers.
The real story is Dallas led 123-106 with four and half minutes left. And lost.
That's unacceptable, and while I wouldn't want to take credit away from the Clippers...well, I guess that's sort of what I'm going to do. At least, partly. Because at the end of the day a well coached, veteran team that's scored 123 points in 43 minutes shouldn't have let this one get away.
Now, if I can take the opposite argument against myself for just a moment, maybe one could say that this probably wasn't a game Dallas had circled on its calendar as a victory, anyway. A strong playoff team at home with a big, athletic front line. Sounds like the type that gives the Mavs trouble.
And for a good portion of that game they did.
From the get-go, this one looked like it was going to be a shootout. Both teams came out firing, with Dirk Nowitzki and J.J. Redick exchanging threes on each team's opening possession. Redick and the Clippers jumped out to an early 26-18 lead before a 12-2 run tied it up and a Vince Carter basket made it 32-30 after the first quarter.
If they were just warm by then, the Clips reached volcanic by the second period. Redick continued to light up the Mavs from outside, and he let Jared Dudley and Matt Barnes join the party. Then, as the half winded down, we started to see the first signs of testiness(testes-ness?), as some choice words were shared and Blake Griffin managed to get to the line three straight possessions in the final minute.
That conveniently helped L.A. to a 42-point quarter, and gave the Clippers a 72-62 lead at halftime.
The third quarter -- much like the first -- began with a Dirk barrage, as he scored eight points in the first three minutes. This included maybe the longest three I've seen that wasn't complete desperation.
Halfway through the quarter, Dallas had climbed back to within one point at 84-83, but it looked like this would be as close as they'd get. Three Matt Barnes triples helped the Clippers build their advantage back to nine at 100-91.
I should probably note that while all this was happening, the refs were calling fouls what seemed like every 30 seconds, including double-technicals on Dirk and Blake Griffin, and another tech on Jose Calderon. In fact, that's almost literally what happened. Over a six and a half minute stretch, there were 10 personal fouls, and those three technicals.
There was also an extremely bizarre sequence in the quarter's final minute. Jae Crowder grabbed a rebound, after Matt Barnes was blocked(from the angle it looked like it could have been a foul but hard to tell). He then tried a full-court pass to Shawn Marion, only to have it intercepted by Blake Griffin.
Griffin then dribbled up court by himself, with most of his teammates standing around(DeAndre Jordan did not appear to even make it over the halfcourt line), and missed the one-on-four fastbreak layup, looking for a foul. Darren Collison happened to be standing precisely where the ball ricocheted, but had his layup attempt blocked by DeJuan Blair. Then Matt Barnes charged after the ball as it bounced into the Dallas bench, and tried to wrestle it from a seated Jose Calderon. After jawing with one of the Dallas coaches, Barnes returned to the court, still staring back in the direction of the Maverick bench.
Oh, right, and seven unanswered points by Dallas to end the quarter made it 100-98, so somehow, this was still very much a game.
The first possession of the fourth quarter saw a shot clock-beating Monta Ellis desperation three give Dallas its first lead since the score was 42-40. And they weren't done. An 11-2 run to start the final frame pushed the Mavs comfortably ahead, and they were beginning to force the Clippers to take long contested jumpers. Over the first seven and a half minutes, Dallas outscored them 25-6 and looked to have, shockingly, turned this game into a laugher.
Oh, but that would have been way too easy, wouldn't it have?
By this point, the game had clearly become heated. The score to put Dallas up 123-106 bloodied Brandan Wright, then after Blake Griffin drew a foul and hit two free throws, Griffin and Vince Carter tussled in the paint after a Jamal Crawford three, resulting in a technical on Vince. Griffin being involved in all three plays is likely not coincidence.
After the technical free throw, the 17 point lead had shrunk two 11 in a little over 30 seconds.
Then, after a Monta Ellis layup, Darren Collison responded by hitting a (wide open) three, and once again Blake Griffin had found himself practically in fisticuffs, this time with Samuel Dalembert. The call was a flagrant foul on Dalembert, which naturally meant a free throw for Blake and the possession returned to L.A. A Jamal Crawford layup made it a six point trip all together.
Monta Ellis responded with a second straight basket, which made the lead still nine with under three minutes left. So, once again, as bad as some of the calls were, this was still very much in Dallas' grasp. Unfortunately, those were the last points Dallas would score, and there were too many key mistakes defensively.
Monta Ellis fumbled a rebound out of bounds on the next play, giving the Clippers another chance that resulted in an open Matt Barnes three. After a Dirk miss, the big German then fouled Jamal Crawford on a three attempt(and the scouting report will tell you Jamal Crawford is the king of the four point play). With the lead four points, the Clippers designed a fairly straightforward play out of a timeout, which had Redick come off a high screen for a straight-on three point shot. It was a play Dallas simply could not defend all night, as both Calderon and Ellis struggled badly to fight through screens to contest Redick's looks.
The final cherry came on L.A.'s final real possession, when Jamal Crawford drove into the lane, and drew a foul on Marion on an awkward looking double-clutch shot. If there are Minnesota fans out there reading this, maybe you'll be calling this karma. Of the three recent questionable final shots Dallas has been involved in lately, this one looked to have by far the least contact, if any. It was the only one called a foul. As Vonnegut said, so it goes.
- Gee, where to even begin? I suppose with Dirk, who scored a team-high 27 points, but missed all four of his field goal attempts in the final quarter, including three late in the game. A couple were clearly just in and out, but it's still wholly un-Dirk. These are probably the exact shots you want if you are a Maverick fan down the stretch. I don't know if that makes it more disheartening or less. I am unsure if there were lingering effects from the "double bruise" he suffered against Orlando on Monday. He finished 8-22 with 8 rebounds and 0 turnovers.
- Most of the rest of the Mavs had good shooting nights. Samuel Dalembert went 9-13 and scored a season high 20 points, though due to 4 fouls it came in 21 minutes. Brandan Wright was 6-7 and Blair 4-5. In related news, Dallas scored 60 points in the paint. That Clipper interior defense needs a lot of work if they want to hang with the West's elite in the playoffs.
- Shawn Marion and Jose Calderon each went 6-9, and combined to make 6-8 from three. As a team, Dallas went 12-25 from deep.
- Going back to Dalembert for a moment: he had 7 rebounds, all offensive. As in, 0 defensive rebounds. Unless this statsheet has a misprint. I'm honestly not sure I've ever seen that before.
- Monta Ellis finished with 13 points, 13 assists and 4 steals. He scored the Mavericks only points in the final four and a half minutes, on back-to-back baskets that would have been huge had Dallas held on to the victory. On closer examination, Monta's long contested jumper with 16 seconds on the shot clock and 44 seconds left in the game may have been a significant blunder. Had he held on to the ball there, Dallas may have been able to run the clock down enough so that the Clippers would be forced to foul on their next possession. Instead, when they got the ball back, there was 34 seconds left, and I'm not sure there's any real advantage to either holding it or going for a 2-for-1 in that situation.
- If you had told me Dallas would outrebound a team with DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, I probably would have laughed in your face. But they did, 47-38, which includes 17 offensive rebounds.
- Dallas also shot better from the field(52.6%), had more assists(37), and fewer turnovers(9). So, how in the world did they end up losing?
- Well, any time you give up nearly 130 points in regulation, I think it's safe to say there is work to be done on the defensive end. If Dallas wasn't being bullied inside for free throws, they were allowing lots of wide open looks for three. J.J. Redick torched them for 33 points, and Matt Barnes tossed in 25 of his own, which I don't care to research whether or not was a season or career high(nothing personal to Clipper fans -- if you've been following the Mavs long, you probably don't like Matt Barnes very much).
- The rotations were bad, but the most headache-inducing stuff was watching Calderon and Ellis feebly attempt to fight through screens. Calderon is simply overmatched; he sometimes tries to compensate for his lack of speed by cheating and taking crazy angles. It doesn't work. Monta, meanwhile, seems occasionally indifferent, or disinterested. I don't know if he's saving himself for the offensive end, or a little gassed from what is probably more minutes than he should be playing after close to a decade in the league, but it's frustrating to watch.
- One of so many crazy parts of this crazy game was that up until Dallas went on that run in the fourth, I was kind of amazed they were even still in it at all. For that one stretch in the fourth quarter, they seemed to be playing aggressive, focused defense. It looked they had finally made adjustments, by keeping in front of Redick at all times, walling off Griffin from the paint, and letting Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison have all the iso's they wanted. It worked, right up until it didn't.