The Clippers had their ups and downs in this one, but a massive performance from Kawhi Leonard enabled them to beat the Mavs and advance to the second round of the playoffs.

Summary

The Clippers and Mavericks both came out a little slow in this one, with some different defenses being deployed by both teams to stop down Luka Doncic and Kawhi Leonard respectively. Doubling those players led to more shot creation from other guys, which led to more missed shots. Fortunately, the Clippers’ defense was a bit sharper than the Mavs’, and they were able to get an early lead. Unfortunately, the defense fell off as soon as the bench began checking in, and the Mavs tied it up. Then, Marcus Morris whacked Luka Doncic across his head in a clear flagrant (whether 1 or 2 is up for debate), and he was ejected. The Clippers looked a bit out of it, and the Mavs seized the lead.

Doc started the 2nd quarter with a JaMychal Green – Ivica Zubac duo in the frontcourt, and the Clippers’ defense immediately improved. Green also added a couple buckets, and the Clippers regained the lead. Things went back and forth for a little bit, with neither team really able to get going offensively. Fortunately, the defense of the Clippers’ starters was once against the most potent unit on either end, and they were able to regain the lead heading into halftime.

The third quarter was almost all Clippers. Green playing alongside the rest of the starting unit resulted in a well-balanced, long, and high-effort defenisv unit that pressured the Mavs into bad shots. On the other end, jumpers started falling, particularly for Kawhi and Landry Shamet, and the Clippers’ lead inched larger. The Mavs began to sink, looking somewhat listless and out of sorts, and the Clippers pressed their advantage. Soon, the lead had hit 23 points, and the game appeared near over. Doc Rivers, however, proving that he hadn’t learned from prior games, ran out the Lou Williams – Reggie Jackson – Montrezl Harrell unit again, and that trio was mercilessly attacked on defense. A couple bad turnovers and rushed shots later, and the lead hung at 12.

Incredibly, Doc doubled down on that lineup, and even added Landry Shamet to the mix, going small with three guards and Trez. This lineup, predictably, was dreadful on both ends, and the Mavs were able to cut the lead down to six. At that point, Kawhi and Zubac were reinserted, and the ship was righted. Kawhi nailed four midrange jumpers in a row, the Clippers’ defense tightened, and their lead hit double digits once more. Reggie Jackson hit a couple wide open spot-up threes just to top things off, and the Clippers cruised down the stretch to a 111-97 win.

Notes

Marcus Morris Idiocy: Marcus Morris had been very good (“great” is stretching it in this humble writer’s opinion) in this series. But he gave away much of that goodwill today with an absolutely ridiculous foul on Luka Doncic. While it can be debated whether the foul was a Flagrant 1 or 2, it was clearly unnecessary, and a poor look for Morris, who has been excused of other dirty plays earlier in the series. He’s too important of a player to get himself kicked out, especially on such a silly foul early in the game. That’s the exact kind of behavior that makes him a wildcard in a bad way – what if he’d done this against the Rockets, or Lakers, and not the short-handed Mavs? The Clippers were ultimately fine without him (though JaMychal Green should have played a lot more), but against better teams the margins will be thinner. This is who Marcus has been throughout his professional (and collegiate career), but it just can’t happen on a team hoping to make a championship run.

Kawhi Dominant: Kawhi Leonard just wrapped up maybe the best playoff series ever from a Clippers’ player. In this one, he had 33 points on 23 shots, 14 rebounds, 7 assists, and 5 steals. He got wherever he wanted on offense, made some beautiful plays for others, was fully locked in defensively, and closed the game out in the 4th quarter. The crazy thing is that Maxi Kleber, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist mostly played excellent defense on him! It just didn’t matter, because Kawhi’s midrange jumpshot combined with his strength simply makes him one of the toughest covers in the NBA. What a performance from him, especially in the 2nd half. When he’s playing like this, any team that he’s on will be difficult to beat.

Zu vs Trez: After a solid performance in Game 5, Montrezl Harrell was once again a vast negative in this one. Part of it was the presence of Boban Marjanovic – Bobi is just a very difficult matchup for him – but the defense was just brutal. He simply offers very little rim protection, and is not nearly as sharp on rotations as Ivica Zubac. Zu, meanwhile, was fantastic, pouring in 15 shots on 6-8 shooting and 3-3 from the line while securing 11 rebounds in 33 minutes. At this point, matchup or no, Zu should be playing significantly more than Trez. While Trez is the more skilled offensive player, Zu’s defense is so much better than Trez’s that the additional offense is lost. Zu is no slouch on offense either, especially with his ability to hit free throws and set massive screens, and he’s a great finisher around the basket in his own right. There’s really no series where Trez should be playing more than Zubac, and at this point, Zu needs to be clearing 30 minutes per game regularly. He’s been awesome. Unfortunately, Trez has not, and while part of that was the difficult of the Mavs’ matchup, and part of it was probably his lack of rhythm from leaving the bubble, his minutes need to be reduced significantly.

Paul George Iffy: Paul George had a very good 1st half, looking confident offensively and playing strong defense. The defense remained solid in the 2nd, but the offense collapsed, with some particularly egregious turnovers helping out with the Mavs big run in the late 3rd and early 4th quarters. He was still more aggressive, confident, and helpful than he had been in Game 4, and was roughly on par with Games 2 and 3, but the Clippers need him to be better going forward. He could not anchor the Clippers’ bench units, and that’s something the Clips need to keep Kawhi’s minutes in a manageable (ideally under 40) range.

The Clippers now advance to the second round, where they will face either the Denver Nuggets or Utah Jazz. The Jazz have better defenders to throw on Kawhi and Paul George, while the Nuggets have the more dangerous offense. We will have more on those opponents in the coming days (though the Jazz could advance tonight with a win). Give thoughts on the game and who you would rather see the Clippers face in the second round in the comments below.

47 Comments

  • Avatar Daniyal Ali says:

    Maybe I’m just in the minority here, but even if that is a flagrant foul I don’t think it was ejection worthy. I think Doncic uses the Harden move to try and hook Morris’s arm and then uses his elbow into Morris’s chest to clear space so Morris gets upset comes down hard on him. If someone pulled that crap on me I would be upset too.

    I’ve seen enough whining and complaining from Doncic all series to not really give a shit about him.

    • Avatar wwshep says:

      Agree with you. That was a “make up” call based on the “shoe incident” that got blown out of proportion. No way was what Morris did even as bad as what Hardaway did to PG13 in game 5 and only got a Flagrant 1. Refs tried their best to screw over the Clips but didn’t succeed.

      Also, Doncic is a great player but he’s really insufferable with all the whining and cry baby shit. A real Prima Donna. Annoying AF.

    • Avatar Thretch says:

      Yes, Morris had a good block on the ball, followed through and hit him in the neck so I agree with Flagrant 1. If he hadn’t made a play on the ball, I’d agree with the Flagrant 2. But this was a “basketball” play.

    • Avatar chogokin says:

      I don’t think he should’ve been ejected either, but tbh I get it. There’s been bad blood between those two all series so I think the refs wanted to nip it in the bud before it grew any worse. Plus on the bright side, Mavs fans can’t (justifiably) complain – they got a flagrant 2 and an ejection and it didn’t matter.

      • Avatar wwshep says:

        Morris had to know his play was going to be under the microscope after all the whining to the league office by Mavs about Morris “dirty” play. Refs were just waiting for a reason to boot him and he gave them one.

    • Avatar sjake says:

      Agree. I thought was a good hard foul. No need for an ejection. The one positive is we got some good JMG minutes.

    • lying dog-faced pony soldier lying dog-faced pony soldier says:

      I must have seen a different play. Morris assaulted Doncic twice, first whacking him atop the head with his left arm and then shoving him roughly to the floor with his right arm. I believe that the flagrant 2 and ejection were entirely warranted. In my opinion, this was egregious and again demonstrated that this guy is quite the knucklehead.

    • Ian Li Ian Li says:

      You’re not alone. It just ‘looked’ bad and because it was Marcus Morris.

      Scott Foster doesn’t like us anyway. It is what it is.

      Just hope Doc can control our ‘dawgs’ better in the coming rounds.

    • Avatar osamu6238 says:

      Definitely should’ve been a Flagrant 1. Hit the ball, but got him with the follow through. Basically the same thing Tim Hardaway did to PG in the last game.

      I’ve seen Mavs fans saying he should be suspended… what? he basically missed this whole game on a borderline call, and they’re saying he should miss more time?

  • Avatar Eshaan K. says:

    We made it to the next round. Bless up that Beverley comes back soon so less Lou Reggie Trezz

  • Avatar Minion94 says:

    It’s just frustrating to see Green get so few minutes. His floor spacing and defense is clearly a great weapon and it sucks to see him play so well in the bubble but not be rewarded with the minutes.

    • Avatar wwshep says:

      Doc’s loyalty to Trez, but man it’s gotta stop. Trez is unplaybale and needs to earn his way back into the rotation.

    • Avatar sjake says:

      Agree. I would think JMG would of been able to pull Boban out of the lane in a way that Trez just can’t.

  • Avatar wwshep says:

    Don’t have a strong preference either way, but I think we match up slightly better against the Jazz than the Nuggets. Mainly because if Zu gets in foul trouble we don’t have anyone else that can guard him. Also I can’t be certain that Doc won’t do some dumb shit like playing Trez against him.

    • Robert Flom Robert Flom says:

      I think Jazz have a much better chance of defending Clips than the Nuggets, but the Nuggets’ offense is scarier.

      • Avatar osamu6238 says:

        Its a tough call. Donovan Mitchell has been playing lights out, but Jamal Murray has been just as good. I think I like Zu/Trez being in more traditional center matchups with the Jazz than the crazy big stretch 5 lineups of the Nuggets. For that reason I guess I’ll lean toward the Jazz, but definitely scared of Ingles lighting up the Clips for like 20 a night for some reason.

  • Avatar Thretch says:

    What I loved seeing: Dallas has some fantastic ball movement, rotating the ball around the perimeter. But LAC kept pursuing and effectively (mostly) challenging the shots. They put in a lot of effort, which is what you need to do against the Mavs offense. They didn’t give up on the play. Doubling and hedging leaves someone open unless you aggressively pursue and they did that fantastically.

    • lying dog-faced pony soldier lying dog-faced pony soldier says:

      Agree, perimeter defense was surprisingly good/great in this game, even without Beverley. This resembled what everyone was hoping for at the beginning of the season.

  • Avatar chogokin says:

    WARNING HOT TAKE INCOMING: I’d prioritize re-signing JMG over Trez this offseason.

    I love everything Trez has done here, but this series has exposed some serious flaws in his game that I’m not sure the rest of the team can cover. JMG isn’t as skilled in the PnR and isn’t as explosive, but he fits in basically any lineup, his defense and rebounding is good, and he’s obviously a much better shooter than Trez.

    I’d be sad to see Trez leave (Lou-Trez PnR has been a joy to watch), but if some team (e.g. Knicks, Bulls, Kings) wants to throw like $20M/yr at him, then I wouldn’t match. I’m not sure what kind of contract JMG will command, but I’d rather have JMG for like $12M/yr than Trez at $15-20M/yr.

    • Avatar wwshep says:

      Spot on. I agree 100%…

    • Avatar sjake says:

      Hmm. ..can’t say I agree. Let’s wait to see how playoff’s play out. Trez may still come up huge for Clips.

      • Avatar chogokin says:

        I hope you’re right, and I do think he’ll be better against Utah or Denver (as long as Doc doesn’t match him up w/ Jokic/Gobert), but he’s always struggled against length.

        I feel like he’d be fine if we put him out there w/ a 3-and-D center, but we don’t have anyone like that on the roster (maybe Fi can grow into this role eventually) right now, and those guys aren’t easy to come by.

    • Avatar Thretch says:

      I love me some Trez, but if a sign and trade could be be swung, that would be the best opportunity to round out and already great roster.

      Letting him walk leaves a big whole with only minimum contracts available.

      • Avatar chogokin says:

        Sign and trade might help replenish the future asset cupboard we had to empty for PG13 too.

  • lying dog-faced pony soldier lying dog-faced pony soldier says:

    Agree that Clippers’ perimeter defense was impressive. And they’re so much better on both ends with Zu and Green.

  • Avatar 8sp0rts8 says:

    Agree with everyone on here.. The flagrant 2 on Morris was BS and the Hardaway foul on PG was worse. Luka is the worst whiner/complainer/flopper ever and he’s only in his 2nd year. So glad we don’t have to see him cry like a sissy anymore. Twitter and media will eventually turn on him and his antics.

    And I don’t understand Doc’s obsession with Reggie. We all know he’s stubbornly loyal to Trez. But why to Reggie? Jmyke is just as good a spot 3pt shooter but a better defender. And yet, Reggie consistently gets more minutes. I guess as a PG himself, Doc values ball handling. But Lou can handle it just fine for the 2nd unit. I just don’t get it.

    I miss Bev for everything he brings to the team. But I want him back more than anything just to see less Reggie

    • Avatar chogokin says:

      ” Luka is the worst whiner/complainer/flopper ever and he’s only in his 2nd year”

      *James Harden has entered the chat

  • Avatar John Maclean says:

    MM: yes it was a stupid foul but we’re going to need his nastiness to get inside Lebrons head. If we keep cozying up to and breaking bread with Lebron we’ll never beat him. Like trying to beat your dad or big brother. Like I said last night he’s the greatest performance artist the NBA has ever seen. He knows how to “work the room” and that’s everything from the media to the refs and yes his opponents. I’m profoundly worried about this X factor. Hopefully Doc et al are cognizant of this too. MM can be our Rick Mahorn. The James rules.

    RJ: his role is fine so long as it’s to come in and get hot here and there. I didn’t watch the entire game but saw him make a couple timely shots. Situational minutes only once Bev comes back.

    Trez: another casualty of no Bev. He’s too small to dominate 7 footers and unplayable against teams that go five out. I expect him to redeem himself in the next round against either the jazz or Nuggets who’s general approach and rotations are more traditional/predictable than a genius like Carlisle.

    • lying dog-faced pony soldier lying dog-faced pony soldier says:

      Like your thought that knucklehead Morris could get inside LeBron’s head. I surmise that should the Clippers and Lakers meet in the WCF, it might come down to a duel between the two geniuses, LeBron and Kawhi. Lakers have Bron and AD and assorted parts, Clippers have Kawhi and PG and quality depth.

    • Lucas Hann Lucas Hann says:

      There’s a fine line between physicality and stupidity. Morris took a clear step on the wrong side of that line, and in a way that is especially damaging because of how important he is to this Clippers team. Taking himself out of a closeout game–and accumulating 2 flagrant points that could cost him a game later in the playoffs via suspension–was selfish. The team needs him to stay on the right side of that line.

  • Avatar Thretch says:

    Denver v. Utah game was epic! Murray and Mitchell put on quite a show.

    Or maybe it was like a corny sports movie where the hero and his rival could do no wrong and hit ridiculous shots EVERY time.

  • Avatar Thretch says:

    And has anyone said “whew!” Glad that’s over. It’s been a long time since I felt the fan perspective of being the favorite in a series. It’s a different experience.

    But a 4-2 victory feels good. Not sure I expected 4-1, so it feels right. Though it was very stressful as a fan.

    • Avatar osamu6238 says:

      I think for the first time, I wasn’t really excited to get out of the first round. It felt more like an exhale, than excitement. Speaks to what’s expected of this team. In the past it was like an accomplishment to get out of the 1st, this is just what was expected and if they stumbled it would’ve been a massive upset. I think even the 2nd round this year will feel more of the same.