The Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers looked like the high school team practicing on the first day back from Christmas break as all chaos ensued after the opening tip. Both teams combined to shoot 1-for-20 (with the Mavericks starting 0-11) in the first few minutes, and the Mavericks added to the funk with missed free throws, including a Luka Doncic airball at the charity stripe. The biggest development from the first quarter happened when Dwight Powell immediately fell to the ground with a non-contact injury that looked about as bad as it could have. Even with a slow start, Dallas and the Clippers were knotted up at 24 all after the first quarter.
The Mavericks bench performed well in the second quarter pushing the team to a 39-33 lead on a Seth Curry triple, but the Clippers roared back finishing the quarter on a 27-10 run. Los Angeles bullied the Mavericks on both ends of the floor and collected 18 fast break points in the first half. The Clippers defended well, made it difficult on Doncic and were able to take a 60-49 lead into the half.
Rick Carlisle opted to open the second half with J.J. Barea, and the Mavericks actually clawed their way back into the game trimming the Clippers’ lead to three. But the third quarter was ultimately about the stars. After Dallas shrunk the lead, Leonard answered with a few tough buckets and ended with 11 points in the quarter. But Doncic wasn’t going to be outdone scoring 13 in the frame for himself keeping the Mavericks within striking distance with the Clippers taking an 82-78 lead into the fourth.
The two teams traded blows in the fourth, and the Mavericks even popped off a 10-0 run midway through to take a 92-90 lead. But the Clippers weathered the storm and were stabilized by Leonard’s 11 points from that point forward. He even connected on a back-breaking three pointer, which was his first of the game to put the Clippers up eight with 1:15 remaining. The Mavericks fought through the final buzzer, but Los Angeles stayed on top and won 110-107 against Dallas. Leonard paced the Clippers with 36 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and two blocks, while Doncic led the Mavericks with 36 points (3-of-12 from three), 10 rebounds and nine assists.
Powell’s injury blows
You knew as soon as you saw Powell drop to the ground after trying to blow by his defender that a serious, non-contact injury just occurred. I’ll get to some of the season-long ramifications in a bit, but the energy changed as soon as Powell was helped to the locker room. The Clippers blew the doors off the Mavericks in the second quarter, and it’s hard not to think the Mavericks weren’t in the right headspace.
This season (and even next season) the Mavericks will sorely miss Powell’s presence. He carved a niche in the league as an elite rim runner and ultimate hustle player. The organization adored Powell’s work ethic and attitude and rewarded him with an extension this past summer. As a culture builder and on-court complement to Doncic and Porzingis, Powell’s shoes will be tough to fill.
Kawhi Leonard dominated on both ends
It wasn’t flashy or glamorous, but Leonard meticulously and methodically picked the Mavericks apart on both ends of the floor. On offense, the Mavericks threw Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber at the Clippers’ superstar but to no avail. When Finney-Smith checked him, Leonard overpowered him with ease and got to wherever he wanted on the floor. Normally a good defender, Finney-Smith simply couldn’t match Leonard’s strength and physicality. The box score won’t show it, but Kleber actually played Leonard well all things considered. With a versatile defensive toolbox, Kleber was able to stay in front and contest, but Leonard put on a display of tough shot making.
On the defensive end Leonard was a menace both on the ball and in the passing lanes. Doncic had trouble firing off his classic heaves to the corner because Leonard’s long arms and massive hands were lurking in the channels that are normally open. He collected three steals and two blocks, and his imprint was all over the game defensively.
The Mavericks were bullied
It’s not surprising considering Dallas doesn’t really have an enforcer down low, but it was apparent with Montrezl Harrell’s bully-ball nature on full display. As a team the Clippers collected 20 offensive rebounds, and Harrell grabbed seven of his own. The reserve big man scored 12 points and pulled down nine total rebounds and was a big reason why the Clippers were able to force their will and wear down the Mavericks. Jamychal Green joined in on the fun and grabbed four offensive boards, and even Rodney McGruder collected three of his own. This resulted in the Clippers outscoring the Mavericks 20-10 in second chance points.
The Mavericks now sit at 27-16 and travel to Portland to take on the Trail Blazers next.
Here’s the postgame podcast, Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you can’t see the embed below “More from Mavs Moneyball”, click here. And if you haven’t yet, subscribe by searching “Mavs Moneyball podcast” into your favorite podcast app.