By Cameron Buford, Whatsgoodinsports.com

5/28/21 Los Angeles Clippers vs Dallas Mavericks Round 1, Game 3

The Mavericks have taken over the home-court advantage of this series by winning games one and two of this series at Staples Center in Los Angeles. As this series changes venues to the American Airlines Arena to Dallas, Texas for games three and four the Mavericks look to put a stranglehold on this series, while simultaneously blowing up the Clippers championship aspirations.

As if last season’s playoffs performance wasn’t bad enough. Losing games one and two in the fashion that they have, has been just as shocking for the Clippers fans across the nation. These supposed defensive stoppers, that the Clippers have assembled, have offered little resistance to Luka Doncic’s historic scoring barrage. In his first eight playoffs’ games, all against the Clippers, Luka has 288 points (and counting), closing in on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s (325), Michael Jordan’s (325), Wilt Chamberlain (299), and Bob Mcadoo (295).

This has aided the Mavericks to shot at a record pace early in this series, as they have been comfortable enough to shot over 50% from the field in consecutive games. While also shooting 50% from behind the arc. The Clippers would need to slow this down to or shoot significantly better themselves to remain alive in these playoffs.

Having allowed the Mavericks to average 120 points per game at Staples Center in Game 1 and 2. They would need to slow this down if they wanted to get back in this series. As Kawhi Leonard would say after Game 2, “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.”

In front of a raucous 17,705 fans at American Airlines Arena, Luka would hit three three-pointers early in this game leading to an early Mavericks 30-11 lead in this game. After finding themselves down by 19 points early in the game, Kawhi and George responded how you expect champions to respond.

Leonard led the Clippers on a 14-0 charge, after hitting his first eight shots. Paul George would score 22 points in that first half on 10 of 13 shooting. This would be the fourth time in the last 25 years that the Clippers have come back to win a postseason game after trailing by at least 19 points.

Kawhi Leonard became the second player to have at least 35 points while shooting at least 66% from the field in consecutive playoff games. Additionally, he is the second player in franchise history with at least 36 points while shooting at least 75% from the field in a postseason game.

Amidst the early run of the Mavericks, it was the poise of Clippers Head Coach Ty Lue which helped to guide the Clippers through it. When asked what he shared with his team during that early run, he stated ”Just stay the course.” Lue then followed up with, ”they came out, the crowd was electric. The fans gave them a lot of juice early. Let’s just stick with the game plan. Luka’s going to hit some shots early, which he always does.”

Though Luka finished the game with 44 points, the Clippers held everyone else to under 15 points. They also held the Mavericks’ to under 45% shooting from the field in this game to win their first game of the series. They would need much of the same to win Game 3 and take the series back to Los Angeles tied up 2-2.

5/30/21 Los Angeles Clippers vs Dallas Mavericks Round 1, Game 4

Heading to this critical Game 4 of this series, the Mavericks have a 7-3 record over the past 10 games. Their opponents have been shooting 47.8% from the field and average 115.9 per game. While averaging 41 rebounds, 24.6 assists with 6.1 steals while shooting 48.4% from the field and averaging 115.9 points per game.

The Clippers on the other hand have a 5-5 record in their past ten games. In those games, they are shooting 49.8% from the field and averaging 112 points per game. Additionally, they are pulling down 42.2 rebounds, dishing out 24.3 assists per game, and getting 6.7 rips per game. They have allowed their opponents to shoot 47.0% from the floor and score 107.3 points per game.

Though Serge Ibaka played just over 5 minutes in game 2 he didn’t travel with the team to Texas and therefore missed games 3 and 4 for the Clippers. JJ Redick missed each game of the series for the Mavericks. Another injury impacting this series has been the apparent neck/shoulder injury of Luka Doncic.

Based on the success of Game 3, Clippers Head Coach Ty Lue has narrowed their rotation and decided to start Nic Batum in response to Luka picking on Ivica Zubac

in the previous game with the pick and rolls. Reggie Jackson, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr., Nic Batum, Rajon Rondo, Ivica Zubac, and Terance Mann are the eight players Coach has decided to roll within this series.

Kawhi remains on fire in this series shooting 56.2% from the field and 44.4% from behind the arc through three games in this series. He also has become the third player, in the Shot Clock Era, to have at least 29 points while shooting at least 66% from the field in three consecutive postseason games.

Because Luka has been ineffective early on in this game, whether it was the combination of Batum on the injury he suffered in Game 3, the Clippers have been able to gain control of this series. Coupled with Kawhi’s scoring is Paul George shooting 53.4% from the floor and remaining aggressive throughout the series.

Now that the Clippers have identified their rotation, the Mavericks were held to 16.7% shooting from three-point range and under 35% from the floor. The Mavericks were also held to 15 points in the third quarter, which was their lowest scoring output of this series. By the Clippers allowing 81 points in Game 4, this ties them to the second-fewest amount of points allowed in a postseason game in franchise history. Clippers Head Coach Ty Lue would say post-game, “I’m proud of our guys for really locking in and trying to get those guys on the line and making points inside the three.” When asked what was his message to his team, that helped them through their slow start in the series, “just poise and focus. I think staying poised. Understanding the task at hand.”

In their post-game press conferences, Kawhi would reiterate a similar message in response to the question about their pace and flow, “Like I’ve been saying, we just have to keep doing what we’re doing on the defensive end, getting rebounds, getting stops.” Paul George would then say when asked about him complimenting Kawhi’s game “He’s all-out driving, attacking, putting pressure on them, their bigs at the rim, and myself, as well. When he needs a break, when he needs a breather, now I’m in attack mode and I’m trying to give him a break. I think we’re just doing a great job countering each other, and you know, it’s fun. This is ultimately what we wanted to get to, being able to share the court and do it on both ends”

Whether it’s been the poise of their Head Coach or the inner drive of the players, the Clippers have impressively responded to the adversity the playoffs are sure to bring. Although they’ve just tied up the series, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the Clippers and their chances to move onto round two of these NBA Playoffs. 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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