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3 thoughts about the Mavericks 97-91 loss to the Clippers

Three games without Luka Doncic equals three straight losses for this Mavericks team.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Clippers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas lost its third straight game Sunday night in Los Angeles, losing to the Clippers 97-91. If you didn’t watch this game, but did watch the previous two losses, it was eerily similar.

Kristaps Porzingis and Jalen Brunson did what they could, leading the team with 25 and 20 points respectively, but the Mavericks offense was a complete stick in the mud without Luka Doncic, who missed his third straight game with a knee and ankle sprain. The Mavericks shot an alarming 41 percent from the floor and 20 percent from three.

Much like the Suns losses, Dallas punched above its weight for about 30 minutes or so, before crumbling a bit in the second half. The Mavericks had a halftime lead, but only scored 15 points in the third quarter, getting outscored 25-15. That ended up being the major difference in a game the Mavericks lost by six points.

Paul George had 29 points, Reggie Jackson had 23 and the Clippers great defense smothered the Mavericks limited role players. Let’s just get on to the thoughts.

The Mavericks are playing as hard as they can, but it’s not enough

Nobody really wants to talk about moral victories and it’s one of my most hated narratives in sports. While I don’t think the Mavericks should necessarily be encouraged by their play in these three losses, in terms of putting things in perspective, they’ve done better than anyone could have expected missing Luka Doncic.

A few bounces or a 50/50 calls going in the Mavericks favor could have given Dallas two wins in these last three games, instead of three losses. Margins are razor thin in the NBA and even one carless possession in the second quarter can end up being a massive play in a close loss. The Mavericks fought their asses off in each of these games and I don’t think anyone that watched them would argue otherwise. Unfortunately that can only get you so far against two good teams.

The Mavericks haven’t lost any of these three games by double-digits and have had a punchers chance in all of them. I don’t know what that means when Doncic returns, but it’s better than the likely alternative of three straight uncompetitive blowouts. Dallas as a team shot about as poorly as I’ve seen them shoot in a long time against the Clippers, but only lost by six and it could have been different if a Jalen Brunson and-one wasn’t wiped out on a controversial decision during a coach’s challenge.

In the past, I’ve criticized the Mavericks lack of effort or how they sleepwalk during the openings of certain games in the past two to three years. None of that happened in this losing streak, which is probably the nicest thing you can say about this team right now.

Dallas role players are missing in action

Take your pick of any player not named Kristaps Porzingis or Jalen Brunson — just about all of them stunk it up offensively in some way. Tim Hardaway Jr., Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith combined for 15 points in their combined 92 minutes. That is not good enough, Luka or no Luka.

Hardaway in particular was the most disappointing. Finney-Smith and Bullock rely on mostly catch and shoot looks generated by Doncic and while Hardaway does too, not this much. We’ve seen Hardaway carry this Mavericks offense when Doncic is off or out with an injury and he just didn’t give the Mavericks enough Sunday afternoon.

It might be time to start wondering about Bullock. He was scoreless in 32 minutes against the Clippers and only took two shots. He’s now shooting 29 percent from three on the season and Doncic’s availability hasn’t been the biggest factor in that slump. Bullock is simply missing his shots. The Mavericks have to figure out a way to get him going or the offense is never going to reach the heights this team wants it to.

Kristaps Porzingis doing the things!

Kristaps Porzingis led the Mavericks with 25 points and he did it by doing all the things people yell at him to do — take advantage of his size and not settling for crappy fallaway jumpers in the midrange.

In a three minute stretch in the fourth quarter when the Mavericks needed someone to get them back into the game, Porzingis scored six points, all on paint touches against smaller defenders, all quick and decisive moves toward the rim and not falling away. Porzingis has been over 20 points in all three games and has shot well in the past two. Porzingis obviously can’t create offense on his own as well and isn’t going to be the type of player who raises the play of his teammates, but he has a job on this team and he’s been doing it. He’s finishing the plays presented to him and not complicating his possessions.

Here’s our latest episode of Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you’re unable to see the embed below, click here to be taken to the podcast directly. Or go to your favorite podcast app and search Mavs Moneyball Podcast.