The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Los Angeles Clippers in the first game of their round one NBA playoffs match up, 113-103. Luka Doncic led Dallas with 31 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists. Kawhi Leonard was the high point man for LA with 22 points.
The Mavericks looked good early getting a nice Kristaps Porzingis jumper to fall and getting to the line repeatedly as the Los Angeles Clippers looked asleep. Luka Doncic posted up Patrick Beverly repeatedly to draw two fouls and getting on the board easily. A Tim Hardaway three pushed the Dallas lead up to 17-6 before a Los Angeles Clippers timeout. Kawhi Leonard proceeded to take over the game for the Clippers, scoring in every way imaginable. Los Angeles methodically worked their way back into the game as the scorching early offense went cold. Though Luka Doncic and Brunson were able to score late, the Clippers pulled within three. The Mavericks led 33-30 after one.
With Luka Doncic getting his first rest of the game, the Mavericks tried to steal minutes and hold on to the lead. An awesome Jalen Brunson offensive board led to a Josh Richardson three to help keep the Clippers at bay. Los Angeles finally tied the game on a Rajon Rondo three and took the lead on another a possession later. The Mavericks hung with the Clippers but two paint scores by Patrick Beverly to push the Los Angeles lead up to four resulted in a Rick Carlisle timeout. The Mavericks responded with an 11-2 run to close the half on the back of two Luka Doncic threes. Dallas took a 60-55 lead into the half.
The third opened with the Mavericks trying to work Kristaps Porzingis into the game with little progress. In the second quarter, Kawhi Leonard essentially put him in jail, closing off any of his off ball movement by beating him to his spots before he could get there. Porzingis wasn’t able to score on either chance, turning it over in one of them and the Clippers tied the game almost immediately. Tim Hardaway Jr. answered with a tow point jumper and Luka scored six straight. The Clippers then opted to send doubles at Doncic for the rest of the frame. Los Angeles continued to work to close the gap, including a monstrous steal and dunk from Kawhi Leonard. Yet Dallas was able to hold the Clippers off, and took a 86-80 lead into the final frame.
An odd line up started the fourth for the Mavericks: Doncic, Nicolo Melli, Dwight Powell, Josh Richardson, and Jalen Brunson. The ensuing strange offense, with Luka getting doubled and kicking to a variety of roll men resulted in no baskets for Dallas for the first two minutes of the frame. The Clippers pulled all the way back in and took the lead. Jalen Brunson then took control, scoring on two straight possessions and drawing fouls on each. Role players then traded baskets: Rajon Rondo for the Clippers and Dorian-Finney Smith for Dallas. Kristaps Porzingis found the bottom of the net for the first time since the first quarter with a roll to the rim and a dunk. After Los Angeles tied it at 100, Finney-Smith connected on his second huge three of the quarter to put Dallas up three. Kristaps Porzingis hit a pair of free throws to put Dallas up five and the game was over. Following a timeout, Kawhi Leonard missed a jumper and Dallas broke the Clipper press in a way that ended with a Porzingis dunk. The Mavericks take game one of the series with a 113-103 victory.
Now, some thoughts...
Tim Hardaway Jr. with the plays of the game
At the 4:34 mark Luka Doncic missed a floater of a jumper off a bad Dallas possession. The Clippers pushed off the make and Tim Hardaway raced the entire way back to get in front of Paul George last second to take a charge at the 4:30. Following a Clipper challenge and eventual upholding of the play, Hardaway connected on a three to give Dallas a lead they would not give up.
Tim Hardaway Jr. should be lauded for an outright incredible performance (21 points, four rebounds), but that hustle, that play helped seal the game.
If you follow Twitter during the game, you would’ve seen any hardcore Maverick fan yelling about Nicolo Melli getting minutes. But with Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber flirting with foul trouble, coach Rick Carlisle had to play someone. And while Melli was -8 in those 9 minutes, it was just enough to help hold the line against a Clippers team which just couldn’t take advantage of minutes where they had the advantage.
Dorian Finney-Smith, stepping up to the plate
Playoffs are about guys stepping up when it matters and Dorian Finney-Smith, the undrafted forward, has had a long road to get where he is. And when Dallas needed him against Los Angeles, answered the call. His stat line tells the story of the game: 18 points on 7 of 9 shooting, including 4 of 5 from three, five rebounds, two assists, and a steal. He also played really good defense on a variety of Clipper offensive possessions. It just feels great, seeing a player like Finney-Smith get a chance to shine and taking advantage.
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.