It may have been Star Wars night at the AAC, but the force was definitely not with the Mavericks. The Clippers came out tonight looking nothing like a team on a four-game losing streak in the middle of an eight-game road trip. They took a double-digit lead into halftime that the Mavericks were never able to put much of a dent in, despite a valiant effort from Charlie Villanueva, who scored a team-high 26 points. The Clippers won this one, 115-98.
What looked like a good chance for a win went south quickly when the Mavericks had some truly terrible injury luck to start the game. Almost immediately Tyson Chandler hurt his ankle, and though he managed to shoot his free throws, he made a beeline for the locker room at the next stoppage in play, and Monta followed a few minutes later. Neither returned.
With Rondo, Monta, and Tyson all missing, Carlisle had to rely on his bench early on and while they looked outmatched at first, allowing the Clippers to take an early lead, Barea and Charlie V took over to keep the Mavs in the game. They led all Mavericks in scoring during the first, with Villanueva putting up an impressive 13 points shooting 3-4 from three, and JJ had added seven points and some pretty solid defense on Chris Paul to right the ship in the last few minutes of the first, giving Mavericks fans hope and also an excellent opportunity for some solid Star Wars quotes:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Uh, we had a slight weapons malfunction, but uh... everything's perfectly all right now. We're fine. We're all fine here now, thank you.</p>— Mavs Moneyball (@mavsmoneyball) <a href="https://twitter.com/mavsmoneyball/status/564967188780437504">February 10, 2015</a></blockquote>
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Unfortunately Charlie V wasn't enough to solve the Mavericks' big man problem. Neither Greg Smith nor Dwight Powell were up to the task of replacing Chandler. Both Smith, who came in when Tyson went out, and Powell who replaced him a few minutes later managed to pick up three fouls between them, gifting the Clippers bonus free throws for more than six minutes of the first quarter. Even Deandre Jordan managed to take advantage of this with a rare two-for-two free throw line appearance.
Still, despite some sloppy play, the first quarter featured a whole lot of offense, with both teams breaking the 30-point mark. Unfortunately, only the Clippers kept that pace up during the second. A Charlie V layup gave the Mavericks the lead early in the second, and the lead went back and forth for a bit, but the Clippers soon took over against a depleted Mavs team and never looked back.
LA went on a mid-quarter 14-0 run to earn a double-digit lead. It looked like Barea and Charlie V were going to save the day when a Villanueva jumper ended the Clipper's run, and Barea followed with a layup and then hustled back down the floor to draw an offensive foul on Chris Paul in transition. Unfortunately, their effort and some well-timed buckets from Chandler Parsons and Dirk (who managed 10 first half points on perfect 4-4 shooting) weren't enough to keep the Mavericks in it, and they closed the first half down 13, having given up 66 points to LA.
With Tyson out, the paint was wide open for the Clippers, who scored 28 points in the paint in the first half while giving up just 12 to the Mavericks. Dallas also suffered from an uncharacteristically high turnover rate, coughing up the ball eight times (they gave up 11 points off of those turnovers) and forcing only three turnovers by the Clippers.
Dallas looked more energetic on both ends of the floor to start the third. With Chandler out and Smith and Powell having poor first quarter showings, Carlisle relied heavily on a small line-up with Villanueva and Al-Farouq Aminu in the front court, and for a while it seemed to be working. The third quarter offense was back on pace with turnovers under control, and the defense was more effective, too, limiting the Clippers in the paint despite Chandler's continued absence.
That success was short-lived, though. Although yet another Charlie V three cut the 13-point halftime deficit to five, the Clippers offense continued to fire on all cylinders, and they were able to expand their lead to 14 by the end of the third.
The final quarter was more of the same, with the few Mavericks starters remaining putting in a strong effort to keep the team afloat. That effort wasn't quite enough, though. The Clippers' lead continued to grow, with the Mavericks still struggling to find any offense outside of Charlie V and Dirk, who was incredibly efficient but took relatively few shots on a night when the match-ups should've been quite favorable. The Mavericks lose this one (and miss a chance to move up in the standings), 115-98.