Before Game 4 could even tip, the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers first-round series continued its roller coaster ride with news of Luka Doncic being cleared to play followed up by a late Kristaps Porzingis scratch mere minutes before the jump.
With Porzingis out and Doncic playing on a bum ankle the Mavericks’ starters struggled to generate points, shooting 5-of-16 from the field in the quarter. However, the Mavericks received quality bench play from Boban Marjanovic and Seth Curry who scored 10 combined points preventing a first quarter blowout as the Clippers led 34-24 after one.
Rick Carlisle deployed a new lineup to start the second quarter, trotting out J.J. Barea, Tim Hardaway Jr., Dorian Finney-Smith, Justin Jackson and Maxi Kleber. It did not faze the Clippers at all as they racked up 18 points in less than four minutes, opening up the game with a 21-point lead. But like the Mavericks do, they fought back and responded with a 15-2 run to close the gap to seven points. And from the moment Doncic checked back in at the 8:12 mark, the Mavericks outscored the Clippers 27-15 the rest of the way thanks to 10 points each in the quarter from Doncic and Trey Burke. But with Lou Williams and Ivica Zubac combining for 27 first-half points, the Clippers took a 66-58 lead into the half.
The third quarter represented some of the most inspired Mavericks basketball I’ve seen in a long time. After Leonard canned a triple to put the Clippers up 73-65, the Mavericks popped off for a 16-0 run to lead 81-73. Doncic dissected the Clipper defense, feeding his teammates who stepped up after a quiet first half. The Mavericks scrambled on defense by running shooters off the three-point line, contested shots at the rim, and it all resulted in energized play on both ends of the court. In all, the superstar ended up with 13 points and five assists in the quarter as the Mavericks outscored the Clippers 35-19 to take a 93-85 lead into the final frame.
Luka Doncic accounted for 25 points in the third quarter (scored 13, 5 assists). The Clippers had 19.— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) August 23, 2020
The backcourt duo of Burke and Seth Curry kept the Mavericks afloat with nine combined quick fourth quarter points while Doncic rested and Lou Williams kept the Clippers within striking defense. And overall the Mavericks continued to play with fire, blocking shots that led to transition buckets. After going up 106-94, Doc Rivers called a timeout to regroup his team. They responded with tight defense forcing tough Mavericks shots resulting in a 9-4 Clippers’ run trimming the Dallas lead to 110-103 with about 5:30 remaining in the game.
From there the Mavericks suffered the same clutch time woes that have plagued them all season. Fortunately, Doncic and Hardaway hit some big triples, but overall the offense collapsed in the waning minutes allowing the Clippers to tie it at 121 forcing overtime. The Mavericks only points in the final minutes were Hardaway free throws after he was fouled shooting from three.
The offensive struggles continued into overtime, but the Mavericks received a few lucky bounces. First, off a Hardaway missed three, Kleber was able to collect the long offensive rebound and shovel it to Burke who knocked down a second try from deep. Second, as Doncic settled for a step-back triple which came up quite short, Burke was able to sneak behind the defense, gather the rebound and put it back in to keep the Mavericks in the game. On the other end, Leonard had no trouble getting to his spots to knock down mid range jumpers.
The game reached its peak with the score tied and the ball in Doncic’s possession. After getting Reggie Jackson on him, Doncic drove hard left, spun right and put the ball in the hoop with about 19 seconds left to give Dallas a two-point lead. Euphoria struck. Needing one last stop, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was tasked with stopping Leonard who drove hard from the right wing. When Kleber fully committed to stop Leonard at the rim, he flipped it to Marcus Morris, Sr. in the left corner who buried his first triple of the game to put the Clippers up 133-132 with about nine seconds remaining.
As all the clutch-time failures swirled, the Mavericks had one last chance with 3.7 left on the clock. With everyone in the world expecting Doncic to take the last shot, the Mavericks did just that. And again, with Jackson switched on Doncic, he danced a little before hoisting up a rainbow three that dropped through the net as time expired. Mavericks 135, Clippers 133.
Doncic led the way for Dallas with a monster triple double, but the team’s key contributions from players like Burke and Hardaway helped fend off 32 points from Leonard and a 36-point bench outburst from Williams.
Dallas has the series knotted up at two game a piece, but here are some observations from Game 4.
Trey Burke was sensational
As we’ve grown accustomed to in Orlando, Burke was invaluable as a scorer and secondary creator. With Porzingis sitting, Burke got the start and took full advantage. In 37 minutes he scored 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting while connecting on four of his five three pointers including the colossal triple mentioned above. Burke was a game high plus-17, and his contributions weren’t limited to the offensive end. In the third quarter he put on a clinic on how undersized guards can defend. He consistently ran shooters off the three-point line, scrambled play after play, and simply outworked everyone with effort and hustle. The Mavericks don’t win this game without Trey Burke, plain and simple.
This Mavericks team...
Can’t ever be counted out. While the clutch time demons almost came back to haunt them, this was truly one of the most inspired performances I’ve seen post-2011. Already short handed with Porzingis out and Doncic nursing a twisted ankle, their backs were severely up against the wall. And after the Clippers raced out to a 28-13 lead, it looked like the Mavericks were getting ready to bend to the heavily favored Clippers’ will.
But that’s not what these Mavericks do. They stuck around and absorbed the blows before blitzing the Clippers with their high-powered offense in the second and third quarters. One of the most remarkable facets of the game is that the Mavericks out rebounded the Clippers 54-41 playing small most of the night. And after a slow start, the team ended up shooting 50 percent from the floor and 36 percent from three. They even survived the Clippers going 29-of-32 from the line!
The team received a scoring punch off the bench from Seth Curry who scored 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, and strangely, none of those buckets came from deep. Marjanovic gave the Mavericks a big lift in the second quarter and ended the game with 10 points and seven rebounds in 16 minutes. And Hardaway, as much as he makes me want to pull my hair out, hit several big buckets down the strech while totaling 21 points. Kleber sparked several runs in the third with big-time swats at the rim, and Finney-Smith took his lumps trying to slow down Leonard and Williams.
It was a monumental team effort considering the circumstances resulting in a game no one will forget for a long time. The Mavericks really survived a 21-point deficit, and buried a title favorite on the back of their 21-points superstar. Special stuff.
Luka Doncic is [insert positive word here]
I just don’t have the words, so I’ll try to keep this succinct. I’ve never wanted to run through a brick wall for someone more than win Doncic splashed the game winning three in at the buzzer. All I could think about were the late game struggles he and the team have self-inflicted. I thought about him spraining his ankle in his first playoff appearance, and I thought about how the Mavericks two most important players STILL haven’t played a full fourth quarter together this series.
That Doncic ended the night with 43 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists while the Clippers soul game plan to stop him with Porzingis out was truly one of the most iconic playoff performances in recent history. He shot 18-of-31 from the field and 40 percent from deep. Before he knocked down the biggest shot of his NBA career, he had come up significantly short on some threes, but great players shake it off and move on to the next play.
Doncic is on an accelerated path to being the NBA’s best player, and it picks up steam each passing game.