The Dallas Mavericks fell in game seven to the Los Angeles Clippers, losing 126-111. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined for 50 points to lead Los Angeles to the next round of the playoffs. Luka Doncic scored 46 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and dished out 14 assists in defeat.
Each team stuck with the same line up from the previous two games and Dallas jumped out to a quick lead with a back cut from Tim Hardaway Jr. for a lay in. The Maverick zone slowed the Clipper pace, but not their scoring as Los Angeles players hit challenging midrange shots early. Dallas kept the lead early through solid ball movement, including two backdoor cuts from Kristaps Porzingis from Boban Marjanovic for scores at the rim. After a Dallas timeout following a Nicholas Batum dunk to put the Clippers up three, the teams (well, Luka Doncic and the Clippers) started trading threes with Doncic making three in a row. The Dallas defense pushed the ball into the hands of various Clipper role players and both Terrance Mann and Rajon Rondo buried them to help keep Los Angeles ahead. The Mavericks managed to retake the lead as the Clippers finally missed a few shots and after a late Dwight Powell tip in, the Dallas Mavericks held on to a 38-35 first quarter lead.
With Doncic sitting, the Dallas offense once again went in the toilet, with no one other than Kristaps Porzingis able to get points on the board. The Clippers retook the lead and looked ready to run away with it as the Mavericks committed repeated turnovers. Dallas closed the lead a number of times, but the Clippers just kept connecting on challenging shots to maintain the lead. Los Angeles built up a nine point lead and the game felt on the edge, but Dorian Finney-Smith rebounded repeated Hardaway misses from distance and Hardaway eventually scored at the rim to cut into the run. Then Porzingis dunked off a great dive to the rim to close the lead. But Reggie Jackson buried a late three pointer to extend the lead before the half, and Dallas found themselves trailing 70-62.
The Mavericks opened the game on a quick 8-2 run forcing a Clipper timeout. The teams then traded baskets for multiple possessions before Dallas took a 81-76 lead on the back of a Finney-Smith three and a Porzingis drive and jumper. The Clippers stormed right back with a 10-0 run of their own, forcing a Dallas timeout. Doncic finally ended the run with a driving basket. But following Luka’s missed free throws, Los Angeles continued to poor it on, building up a 15 point lead on stellar three point shooting. For some reason, Rick Carlisle went to Trey Burke for a spark and it ended up being a spectacular dud. The Los Angeles Clippers led 100-85 after three quarters.
Hardaway opened the fourth getting stripped by Kawhi Leonard and the route appeared on with Los Angeles building the lead up to 19 as the Dallas offense went stone cold. And yet the Mavericks weren’t dead, whittling the Clipper lead down to seven points through a variety of means and some helpful Clipper minutes. But the Los Angeles role players, who’d found their collective shot in game seven buried the Dallas come back with a pair of late threes. The Mavericks fell to the Los Angeles Clippers 111-126.
Now some thoughts....
Luka Doncic and getting in supreme shape
I’m loathe to criticize the player who, through six games, averaged 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8.7 assists and yet if Luka Doncic wants to play a heliocentric style of basketball, he owes it to himself and to the Mavericks to get in truly unstoppable shape. It’s somewhat silly that he’s this good at just 22 but the next steps in his ascension are directly related to his wind (free throws, for example). This series he was gassed just often enough; there’s plenty of copy yet to be written about the need for more guys on this team who can dribble and pass, but Doncic can be in better shape.
Doncic slowed down in every second half due to the load he carried and by the end of a grueling seven game series it was quite clear he just didn’t have the stamina.
The Clipper team shooting finally returned
Prior to the game, Los Angeles was shooting just 35.3 from three, a statistically significant percentage below their regular season 41.1 from distance. In Game 7 the group poured it in from distance, hitting over 50% of their attempts for most of the game before cooling off in the fourth a bit, but only just so as they finished the game shooting 46.5% from the floor.
This kind of shooting was something I’d been worried about all series and it paid off for them at the right time. The Clippers might not have a functional point guard, but they do had the kind of shooting out of double teams that can crush a team and Dallas simply ran into a buzz saw. The Mavericks zone defense, which showed major progress in Games 5 and 6, finally collapsed under the barrage of three pointers.
The Mavericks need roster improvements
There’s going to be a lot said about this in the coming days, weeks, and months. It’s been a hobby horse of mine going back to the 2019 free agency, where Dallas had the Bird Rights to many players which could’ve created some additional cap space if they wanted it. Instead they either weren’t interested in signing talent or they got caught in the flurry of activity that first night.
The Mavericks have mainly had the same set of rotation guys going back to when they traded for Porzingis and Hardaway in late January 2019. Think about who I’m talking about here: Doncic, Porzingis, Hardaway, Finney-Smith, Powell, Jalen Brunson, and Maxi Kleber. Their two main off season acquisitions of Delon Wright and Josh Richardson were variations of a disaster. Burke playing in the second half of a Game 7 makes no sense and yet Dallas coach Rick Carlisle didn’t have options who could score the basketball and defend at the same time. That’s an indictment on the front office and there’s just no other way around it.
What’s more frustrating is that this isn’t an indictment of the aforementioned guys. These guys played incredible basketball for many weeks and months and they just weren’t good enough. There’s no blame to be placed on individual players, in my opinion, though frustration is more than understandable. The Clippers were the better team and it’s kind of amazing Dallas took things to seven games.
The off-season starts tomorrow and we hope you’ll make Mavs Moneyball one of your stops for Dallas content. Mavs Fans For Life.
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.