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4 problems the Mavericks couldn’t solve in their 107-88 loss at the Clippers

It’s tough to win when you can’t shoot.

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Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Clippers
Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks shoots the ball during the game against the LA Clippers on November 25, 2023 at Crypto.Com Arena in Los Angeles, California.
Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks (10-6) fell on their collective face Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers (7-8) at the Arena to split their two-game Thanksgiving weekend trip to LA, 1-1.

Dallas went cold from 3-point range, shooting a putrid 9-of-38, and scored a season-low on offense in the Mavs’ 107-88 loss to the Clippers.

Kyrie Irving started Saturday’s game against the Clippers right where he left off against the Lakers on Wednesday, though. After nailing the go-ahead 3-pointer with 22 seconds left against the Lakers, he hit the game’s first field goal on a jumper from the elbow, but the Mavericks struggled to maintain momentum in the early going against the Clippers. If someone had asked you which of these two teams was on the second night of back-to-back games based on the eye test in the first half, you would have guessed the Mavs, not the Clippers, who actually were on the second night of a back-to-back set.

When Paul George stumbled on a fast break but still somehow finished for a score as he crumpled to the ground, coach Jason Kidd had seen enough and called the game’s first timeout, down 13-7 with 6:26 left in the first.

James Harden came up with a steal and passed ahead to Terrence Mann for a breakaway jam to push the run to 10-3 and the Clippers’ lead to 17-10. Ivica Zubac kept it going with a putback in the lane to give LA its first double-digit lead, up 23-12, with just over three minutes left in the first.

Dončić went into the locker room with a minor hand injury of some kind at around the same time. Just a little over a minute into the game, Luka’s left hand got caught up in a collision with James Harden, and he continued to favor it until he exited the game late in the first. He spent just a few minutes in the locker room before returning to the bench, and the Clippers took a 29-18 lead after one.

Irving led all Mavs scorers with 12 in the frame. At that point, Irving had scored all but 12 of the Mavericks’ points in the previous two quarters of play, so it’s safe to say generating offense was becoming problematic for the Mavs.

Dončić hit his first shot attempt of the second quarter on a floater inside and didn’t show many signs the hand was an issue from there on out. Norman Powell hit a 3-pointer in transition with 10:20 left in the half to expand the Clippers’ lead to 36-20. The Mavericks had connected on just nine of their first 29 shot attempts as a team at that point and needed a spark that just wouldn’t come.

The Mavs made up some ground before halftime, though. Tim Hardaway Jr.’s runner in the lane with just over 2 minutes before halftime pulled Dallas to within 48-38, and the halftime deficit was relatively manageable at 56-45.

The Clippers built their lead back up to 18 in the first half of the third quarter. Harden’s step-back 3-pointer with just over seven minutes left in the third put Los Angeles back up 68-50. Two Terrence Mann free throws extended the lead to 72-50 just a minute later, which marked a three-minute draught since the Mavericks’ last field goal.

Irving scored the third quarter’s final five points and hit a 3-pointer from the wing on the opening possession of the fourth to complete a personal 8-0 run that drew the Mavericks to within 79-65. He found Hardaway for a 3-pointer on the wing that pulled Dallas to within 83-70 with just over 10 minutes to play, but the Mavs couldn’t chip away much more than that the rest of the night.

Dončić led the Mavericks with 30 points and four assists in the loss. Irving added 26 points and six boards. Here are four problems the Mavs couldn’t solve in their second meeting with the Clippers:

The disappearing supporting cast

It took 19 minutes of game time for the Mavericks to produce a field goal from someone not named Luka Dončić or Kyrie Irving Saturday. In the first half, Dončić had 22 points, Irving had 12 (all in the first quarter), and the rest of the Dallas roster combined for just 11 points.

The Mavs, who have largely lived by the three through the first 15 games of the season, died by the three against the Clippers. The Mavericks were also abysmal from distance, just 2-of-16 in the first half and just 2-of-9 to start the third.

The 45 points the Mavs scored in the first half was the lowest output of any two-quarter stretch this year, until the third quarter was over. Dallas scored just 17 in the third, and only had 12 until Irving singlehandedly exploded for 5 points in the frame’s final 30 seconds.

“They were just way more physical. They set the tone, and we’ve got to match their intensity right now,” Mavs assistant coach Jared Dudley said at halftime. “Luka started getting going in the second quarter, but for us [the difference is] their rebounding and physicality right now.”

The inside job

With both Maxi Kleber and Dereck Lively II out for this game, it was up to Richaun Holmes and Dwight Powell to patrol the paint and limit the Clippers’ chances inside. Spoiler alert: it worked out about as well as it did when Lively and Kleber were on the floor, which is to say that it didn’t work out at all. Dallas gave up 30 points in the paint in the first half and was outscored 54-32 on the night.

The Clippers out-rebounded the Mavericks by a whopping 57-37 Saturday as well.

“We missed someone when you talk about D-Live, a guy that’s going to change shots, rebound the ball,” Kidd said in the postgame. “When you look at our center position this evening, I think we were 0-for-4. That’s not what D-Live does — he can put it in the basket.”

The perfection from Powell

Clippers’ second-team swingman Norman Powell was perfect from the field, from 3-point territory and from the free-throw line against the Mavericks. He was 4-for-4 from the field, including 3-for-3 from 3-point range, and 4-for-4 from the free throw line for 15 points off the bench.

Terrence Mann added 17, and Russell Westbrook chipped in 14 off the bench as well for LA.

The big effort from Paul George

In the Mavericks’ first meeting with the Clippers on Nov. 10 at the American Airlines Center, Dallas held George to eight points on 3-of-12 shooting and 1-of-7 from deep. He would not be denied in his second try, and led all Clippers scorers Saturday with 25 points, pulled down nine rebounds and dished four assists.