Luka Doncic missed all of his shots in the fourth quarter against the Clippers in Game 1 of the Mavericks first round series Saturday afternoon. All of them, including three 3-pointers. The Mavericks outscored the Clippers 27-23 in the final quarter and won the game by double-digits, 113-103.
Those two sentences should contradict each other. How in the hell did the Mavericks, a team that has struggled at times this season getting the necessary plays from people other than Doncic, do this against a team as elite as the Clippers? Well, it helps when three of your most important role players all show up at once.
Dorian Finney-Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jalen Brunson combined for 54 points on 19-of-29 shooting, including 9-of-15 from three. Each scored at least 15 points, making the crucial plays the Mavericks needed as the Clippers double-teamed Doncic for most of the fourth quarter.
For Finney-Smith and Hardaway, the reason was simple: they made shots after the Clippers got the ball out of Doncic’s hands.
Once the Clippers began aggressively trapping in the fourth quarter, both Hardaway and Finney-Smith made the proper reads to get easy baskets to close the game out.
For Brunson, he made two crucial, back-to-back and-one layups after the Clippers took their first lead of the fourth quarter. It was the first moment the game started feeling slippery for Dallas and Brunson delivered with two momentum killers for the Clippers.
The Kristaps Porzingis dunk, Hardaway layup and both Brunson drives all had one thing in common: no rim defender was near the basket for Los Angeles.
Doncic obliterated Ivica Zubac early in the first half and the Clippers turned to Serge Ibaka in the third quarter. For most of the fourth, the Clippers played small-ball, with Marcus Morris at center. Basically every coverage the Clippers threw at the Mavericks, they had an answer. Doncic playing Zubac off the floor forced the Clippers small, and with the Clippers small, it was harder for them to guard the rim. After going 5-of-9 from the restricted area in the first half, the Mavericks shot 8-of-11 from that spot in the second. Zubac played only 19 minutes total and just under five minutes in the second half.
Even the Clippers strategy of putting their lone big on a wing blew up, since Finney-Smith had such a great game. There were no hiding spots for the Clippers big men as the Mavericks role players hit their threes. On both Brunson drives, he scored at the rim 1-on-1 with no help, as Ibaka stuck to Porzingis at the three point line. Porzingis might have had a lousy game overall, but just his mere presence on the floor allowed the Mavericks to contort the Clippers defense into compromising situations.
The Clippers opened the door and credit the Mavericks role players for stepping through. Things got a little hairy in the second half at times, as Hardaway and Finney-Smith had some bad turnovers the fueled some Los Angele fast breaks, but otherwise they basically pitched a perfect game. When you consider how often the Clippers made Doncic give up the ball, it speaks loudly that the Mavericks only had 12 turnovers. Los Angeles dared the Mavericks role players to beat them in Game 1 and they did.
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.