It took a few minutes for the Mavericks to find their footing, as they gave up a few offensive rebounds and struggled to score in the opening minutes of the first quarter. But an ultra rate step-back three from Dorian Finney-Smith gave them their first lead and kicked of an 11-0 Dallas run. Unfortunately, the Clippers immediately responded with a 15-0 run of their own. The Mavericks absolutely could not buy a basket during this time; they failed to score a point for over five minutes of game action. A Tim Hardaway Jr layup and two free throws from Luka closed the quarter, and the Mavericks were able to head into the second down just two, 22-20.
The second quarter saw the game of runs continue, as the Mavericks were able to go on a 13-0 run after falling behind by five points early in the frame, establishing a nine point lead. Both teams traded blows after that; Dallas briefly increased its lead to ten, but the Clippers, aided by a ton of foul calls, cut into the deficient. Back-to-back threes by Reggie Jackson (one of which was banked in) trimmed Dallas’ lead to just two before Spencer Dinwiddie hit a pull-up three pointer to give the Mavericks a 54-49 edge heading into the locker room.
Dallas came out for the third with poor energy and the Clippers were able to pull in front. Again, the Mavericks struggled mightily to score and they seemed to let poor officiating get in their collective heads and stop them from executing on the offensive end. The Clippers went on a 16-4 run, and with Luka Doncic having a very poor shooting day, it looked like this one might be in danger of getting out of hand. However, Dallas went on a run of their own following a Jason Kidd timeout and were able to briefly take the lead once again with four minutes to go. Doncic started to find his footing offensively and the two teams went back-and-forth for the remainder of the period, ending the frame tied at 79.
The Clippers opened the fourth quarter on a 6-0 run and took control of the game. They continued to aggressively attack the basket and force the referees to call fouls, getting to the free throw line and hitting all of them. On the other end of the floor, Dallas failed to get anything going against a dialed-in Clipper defense. Kawhi Leonard and Norman Powell destroyed the Maverick defense and Los Angeles was able to pull away as the quarter went on, ending up with a double-digit win. It was a disappointing result, as the Mavericks put together a solid effort for most of the day. Here are three observations that tell the story of this one.
Free Throws. Free Throws. Free Throws.
It was mentioned ad nauseam on the broadcast, on social media, and in your living room. This game was lost at the free throw line. The Clippers were 30-31 at the charity stripe while the Mavericks shot 15-26. Though the officiating today was questionable at best, Dallas fouled too much and the Clippers did a great job of earning trips to the line and cashing in once they got there. Although the Mavericks have been better lately shooting free throws as a team, this has been an issue all season. ELEVEN missed free throws is simply far too many for a professional basketball team to miss. It starts with the superstar player; Doncic missed five out of the 13 he took today. It’s unacceptable.
Kawhi Leonard continues to terrorize the Mavericks
It seems like every single time Leonard suits up against Dallas, he puts in a masterclass performance. He scored his 30 points in ultra efficient fashion today, going 10-18 from the floor, 3-4 from three, and 7-7 from the free throw line. The Mavericks had no answer for Kawhi, especially in the fourth quarter, as he took over the game and hit a back breaking three to put Clippers up ten with four minutes to go. Injuries have slowed him down over the last couple seasons, but today was a good reminder that he’s still one of the best players in the league when he’s going well.
The offense was far too stagnant
Luka Doncic had a bad game for the Mavericks today. Although he scored 29 points on 43% shooting, it took him a long time to really get going and the Clippers did a great job of stopping him from being an effective playmaker. He had just four assists. Tim Hardaway Jr and Spencer Dinwiddie both chipped in with 20-point efforts, but it was really just a three-man show offensively. Dallas failed to generate good looks consistently and there was no flow whatsoever to their offensive attack. Credit the Clippers for playing very good defense, as the Mavericks were unable to make the necessary adjustments.
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