By Cameron Buford

whatsgoodinsports.com

5/22/21 Dallas Mavericks vs Los Angeles Clippers Round 1, Game 1

The Clippers came into this game leading the NBA in 3-point shooting and free-throw shooting on the season by shooting over 41% from deep and nearly 84% from the three-point line respectively. They would welcome the Dallas Mavericks to the Staple Center to play in front of about 7,000 fans inside Staples Center.

Leading into the playoffs, the Clippers chose to rest their keys players in the final games of the regular season. “I’ll take health over rust any day,” Clippers Head Coach said of regular-season-ending losses to Houston and Oklahoma City when one victory would have meant a first-round pairing with Portland. Coach Ty Lue also opened up about their week of training stating, “I did something I’ve never done before, and that I don’t believe in, we scrimmaged the other day. Because guys wanted to play a little… I never fall for it, but this time I did! Kawhi, PG, Rondo, Pat Bev, all wanted to test it a little bit.

Before the game, Rick Carlisle said when asked to compare this season Clippers team to last season’s team, “The structure of their team has changed slightly, but with the acquisition of Rondo they’ve gotten tougher, better defensively and they’ve added a playmaker… they’re a contending team, there’s no question.”

Kristaps Prozingis knocks down his first couple of shots vs the Clippers, to give them an early 7-2 lead in this game. A couple of dunks by Ivica Zubac narrows the leads until Luka makes a couple of buckets. Paul George shoots an airball from three-point range after Dorian Finney Smith drives to the hoop for a power dunk.

After each team missed their next few shots, the Mavericks knocked down a couple of threes to extend their leads to 17-6. Leonard The Mavericks are a collective 4-8 from three-point range on their way to a 27-19 lead before Kawhi knocks down a three-pointer to close the gap the 27-22.

After a slow start, the Clippers brought the game to within 3 points before a questionable call that sent Brunson to the line for 2 free throws. After hitting both free throws the Mavericks’ lead went back to 5. Kawhi, who played the entire, first-quarter knocked down two free throws the once again bring the game within three points with second remaining in the quarter.

Midway through the second quarter, the Clippers tied the game on a Rondo three-pointer. They then took the lead on a Rondo three-pointer. Patrick Beverley found himself in the paint and maneuvered his way for an easy bucket to give the Clippers a 4 point lead, which was their biggest lead of the game, to that point.

Luka would hit his second and third three-pointer late in the half to give the Mavericks a four-point lead 60-53. As the Mavericks went on an 11-2 run to close out the first half. Not only is Luka having his way, with anyone on the court, but he also went on his 7-point run.

To make things worse for the Clippers, the Mavericks as a team is shooting 50% from deep. Although Kawhi Leonard gave Kleber an up-close look at the facial dunk with 3:45 remaining in the third quarter to pull the Clippers within two points of the Mavericks. Luka then hits another step-back three-pointer to give himself 30 points on the night and the Mavericks a six-point lead, at the end of three quarters.

With 8:52 PG finally hits a three-point shot to give the Clippers a brief lead. Along with Luka playing amazing tonight, the others on the Mavericks have been special today; Jalen Brunson, Tim Hardaway Jr., Dorian Finney-Smith, and Josh Richardson all combined for 62 points deep into the fourth quarter.

Not helping their cause, the Clippers would miss 3 of 4 free throws down the stretch of this close game. Which would put the game out of reach for the Mavericks and give the Clippers their fourth consecutive playoff loss.

5/25/21 Dallas Mavericks (1-0) vs Los Angeles Clippers (0-0) Round 1, Game 2

Forgive me, faithful readers, and fans this Game 2 recap will deviate from the post-game recaps, you guys have been reading all season long. This will be more of an opinion piece on what we’ve seen from the Los Angeles Clippers and Luka Doncic’s Mavericks thus far in Round 1 of these NBA Playoffs.

To start, it appears Coach Ty Lue appears to have too many choices to choose from and the Clippers still aren’t comfortable with each other. As if that wasn’t enough, they are facing, likely, the second-best 22-year-old player in league history.

Under the guise of injuries, the Clippers and have looked more like the kid on the block with too many toys and aren’t sure which one is their favorite. Whether it’s the health or additions to the roster, Head Coach Ty Lue hasn’t been able to decide on a line-up that allows these guys to flourish this season.

The use of Serge Ibaka, their supreme low post player, and Terance Mann their energy, has been shameful at best. They brought in Rondo, to be a leader with playoffs experience, though he’s only played 43 minutes in both games and has recorded 11 total assists in this short series.

Secondly, Luka Doncic dissected the Clippers’ defense, as Payton Manning dissected defenses as quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts. Anything the Clippers tried to throw at Luka, he had an answer for it. If they blitzed, trapped him, or double-teamed Luka… not only did he see it coming he was able to make the right play as a response. Whether he made the right pass leading to points or he made the pass that led to the pass that leads to easy points.

Or he manipulated the defense to pick on the worse defender on the Clippers en route to his 39 points. Now for the series, Luka is averaging 36 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 9 assists. Additionally, he is making his teammates better as his team is shooting 50% from behind the arc and 51.8% from the floor in this series. Luka did all this against who we thought were some of the best defenders we’ve seen assemble, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Patrick Beverley, Nicolas Batum.

All the while Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined for 71 points while 26/43 on 60.4% shooting in game 2. Yet only one other player, Reggie Jackson with 15 points, scored in double figures in this game because many of their points are coming off isolation basketball.

Lastly, with the Mavericks up two games to zero, this series now heads to Dallas for games three and four. Where the Clippers had maybe 7000 fans in attendance at Staples Center, due to COVID restrictions, the Mavericks will likely be near a capacity of 18,500 at American Airlines Center. To add to the pressure of playing for their season, the Clippers will certainly have their backs against the wall and Luka has shown that he has multiple weapons, in his arsenal, to dismantle the Clippers at each tip-off. In their post-game media availability Head Coach Ty Lue said, “We had some game plan mistakes; they got everything they wanted defensively tonight, I thought the game was pretty easy for them.” Paul George said when asked about his level of concern, “there’s no level of concern, we got to play our game and incorporate our defense.” While Kawhi said post-game, “It’s not magic, we got to come out and play basketball; like I said get stops! That’s the name of the game right now. They are shooting too great the first two games.”

These guys have a couple of games to erase this horrendous defensive play of Games 1 & 2 and show the basketball world that they have life and can live up to expectations. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the Clippers or even Luka’s tremendous game this series. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or forward any suggestions on what additional topics or angles you’d like to see discussed to info@whatsgoodinsports.com.

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