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3 observations after the Dallas Mavericks can’t close against the Los Angeles Clippers, 109-99

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The Clippers are good and showed why

Los Angeles Clippers v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Los Angeles Clippers Monday night, 109-99. Kawhi Leonard dominated for the Clippers, scoring 22, grabbing eight rebounds, dishing seven assists, and stealing the ball four times. Luka Doncic posted a 25 point, 10 rebound, 16 assist triple double in defeat.

Things got off to a fast start in Dallas, with the Clippers looking to score early and often on the Mavericks. Luka Doncic kept the Mavericks in it early and Dallas found themselves down 10-12 following the first timeout and ensuing substitutions. The Clippers jumped on the edited Dallas line up and the lead ballooned up to 12 for Los Angeles until a late shot clock Tim Hardaway three settled the somewhat shook Mavericks. Jalen Brunson kept Dallas in things as the Clippers continued to score with ease. The 12 Los Angeles points in the paint gave the Clippers an early edge and Dallas trailed 31-23 after twelve minutes of action.

Luka Doncic started the second as a man on a mission, knocking down two threes. The Clippers, though weren’t about to back down and hit great shots all quarter. Dallas worked themselves all the way back to take the lead three times in the final four minutes of the quarter. The Mavericks made mistakes in their final two possessions though, and Los Angeles took a 55-50 lead into the half.

Dallas came out lethargic in the third, feeling like a Maverick team of yore. They gave up quick six points and Rick Carlisle was having none of it and called a timeout. The Mavericks settled themselves some and worked back into the game for a time before Los Angeles simply out-talented the Mavericks. Despite some great looks at the basket, Dallas could not close the gap and the Clippers managed to build on their halftime lead. The Mavericks trailed the Clippers 85-78 after three quarters.

Tim Hardaway Jr. made it his mission to keep Dallas alive in the fourth, hitting key shot after key shot. The Mavericks managed to pull within four following a huge Hardaway three with 3:15 left, but things weren’t to be for Dallas. Doncic missed Porzingis on a roll to the rim, the forced him a late entry pass which Lou Williams stole. The Clippers didn’t score on that possession, but Kawhi finished a three point play to put the game out of reach for Dallas. The Mavericks fell to the Los Angeles Clippers 109-99.

Now, some thoughts:

The Clippers continue to expose the Dallas weak points

This game felt like the sum-of-all-fears game that Josh and I worried about from the Clippers prior to the playoffs last season. They simply break Dallas at the weak points and there are no easy fixes. They’ve got deep wing depth to annoy Luka Doncic. They have an offense which results in solid three point shooting (they went 14 of 32 from distance). They also expose just how out matched Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber are. The defensive combination went 4 of 12 from the field for just 11 points, while grabbing eight combined rebounds, and three turnovers.

It’s not that either player is bad, in fact we all know how valuable they’ve been to Dallas this season. It’s that Dallas expects both to do too much night in and out and when playing truly elite teams they get exposed. We’ve got enough game tape now. It’s shocking to watch Kleber turn into a pumpkin (though he was awesome in the final six minutes on defense) and see Finney-Smith reign bricks on astoundingly wide open shots.

Honestly, I should toss Josh Richardson in here too. He scored six straight then went into cryo-sleep for the game, statistically. Shoot the ball fellas.

Porzingis and post-ups

Big picture, Porzingis and his post ups are a reasonable play for the Mavericks. He’s scoring at a pretty good point-per-possession rate out of those looks and Dallas as an offense is scoring even higher (meaning he makes passes).

The Mavericks missed Porzingis early and often as a post up threat tonight. Now, I’ve not seen the tape. I believe that any time he catches the ball and does anything other than face up (which is still a post up by tracking data) things get ugly, particularly on those 15 foot post ups. And yet, the volume of missed passes can’t be explained by “Porzingis is a menial post threat”. Really, the Clippers are great at baiting teams into thinking something is there that isn’t but I hope in the re-match Wednesday, Dallas finds a way to get the guy the ball. He shot 9 of 14 from the field. He felt good, worked hard on the other end defensively, and wasn’t rewarded enough.

Luka Doncic must be better

“I took some terrible shots. This game is on me,” said Doncic in the postgame Zoom.

He’s wrong. But he’s also right. His seven turnovers were pretty bad. And yet he had 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 16 assists. He did enough right and his competitive fire kept Dallas in things while some of his teammates (namely, Tim Hardaway Jr. ) kept things close literally through some great, great shot making.

I’m not sure what else Doncic can do in a big picture sense, past taking care of the ball more and perhaps griping at the referees less. Dallas has to find a way for him to do more while not always having the ball in his hands in those key situations. It’ll be good for him and the team in the long run. Good thing the Mavericks play this team again in two days.

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.