A cold shooting day and defensive miscues down the stretch were paramount in Game 1 for the pressing L.A. Clippers, who came up well short of the scorching Dallas Mavericks 113-103 Saturday. Kawhi Leonard was electric for the Clippers, tallying 26 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals in a game-high 40:46 minutes. After shooting just 1-for-7 from the field in the first half, Paul George continued to stay aggressive facilitating and defending before the well started to open up for him. PG-13 finished with 23 points, six rebounds, five assists and a steal. Picking up right where he left off in the Orlando bubble, Luka Dončić collected a triple-double to lead Dallas with 31 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, a steal and two blocks. Read on for our full Clippers vs. Mavericks game recap.
While it was the Clippers who got off to an 18-4 start in Game 1 last season, the Mavericks were the team playing free and easy from the jump this time around. Capitalizing on the numerous empty possessions of the overzealous Clipper offense, a Tim Hardaway Jr. three forced head coach Tyronn Lue to take time as the Mavs took a 17-6 lead halfway through the period. Outside of Ivica Zubac going 2-for-2, the Clippers started off 0-for-9 from the field in that span. After getting punched in the mouth, however, the Clippers showed a bit of their growth this season when Nicolas Batum checked in for his first playoff appearance since 2016. Pump faking to shake Dončić up and out of bounds before nailing his patented left corner three, Batum was the catalyst off the bench the Clippers needed to get back into their rhythm. After Dončić (12) and Leonard (13) each combined for 25 points in the period, the Clippers trailed just 33-30 after one.
The league’s best 3-point shooting team in the regular season continued to slump in the second quarter as the Clippers lost the period 27-25 while shooting 2-for-10 from downtown. Once again, it was unlikely heroes keeping the Clippers afloat as Rajon Rondo connected on back-to-back triples to give LAC its first lead of the day. Patrick Beverley soon sank in a pair of floaters to push the Clips ahead by four. Just as L.A. was starting to feel itself, however, the greatness of Dončić took center stage, as the 22-year-old poured in a pair of top-of-the-arc treys and found a wide-open Hardaway Jr. in the corner to spark an 11-2 Dallas run to close the first half. Heading into the halftime break, the Mavericks remained ahead 60-55.
Continuing to shoot a lethargic 7 of 28 (25%) from deep, the Clippers had their chances to take the lead but couldn’t get over the hump in the third frame. After opening up the quarter on a 5-0 run to tie the game at 60, the Clippers gave an 8-0 Dallas run headlined once again by the stellar scoring of Dončić. Although the Clippers continued to keep Kristaps Porziņģis scoreless on four attempts from the field, Dončić received timely buckets from Dorian Finney-Smith and Jalen Brunson to keep LAC at bay. Despite an seismic one-handed poster by Leonard over Maxi Kleber, Dallas held an 86-80 lead into the final frame.
In a quarter that saw a total of eight lead changes and two ties, the Clippers ultimately just couldn’t match the level of consistency and execution of its visitors down the stretch. One week removed from setting the NBA’s regular season record for free throw shooting efficiency, the Clippers shot a backbreaking 3-for-8 (37.5%) from the charity stripe to close. Despite some clutch threes from Rondo and George to dance the Clippers ahead for moments of the period, it was the confidence of Finney-Smith, Hardaway Jr. and Brunson who stole the show, LAC’s homecourt advantage and a 1-0 series lead for Dallas when the clock hit triple zeroes.
Clippers vs. Mavericks Game Notes
- Mavs Strike First: A team that can exchange buckets with anyone in the league when given the confidence, Dallas improved to 28-0 this season when leading after the first quarter. Meanwhile, the Clippers’ slow start in the opening minutes really set the tone as from top-to-bottom, Dončić and the Mavericks could not be stopped when things mattered most.
- The Luka Dončić Experience: For the second year in a row, the Clippers are getting exclusive first-row tickets to the game’s best up-and-coming talent blossoming in the playoffs. The rest of the NBA loves it; Clipper Nation can’t help but tip their caps to it. One of the main draws for the hire of Tyronn Lue was his ability to make mid-series adjustments. Whether it’s the initial matchups or the pick-and-roll coverages, Lue and co. will have to figure out how they want to deal with No. 77 or the situation could get dire quick.
- Reggie in the Rotation: A big question moving forward will be whether or not Lue continues to go with Reggie Jackson off the bench as one of L.A.’s Top-9 guys. Reminiscent of last’s year performance, he was a dud in this one despite logging more minutes than Beverley, Terance Mann and Luke Kennard combined. When his looks aren’t falling, it’s tough to keep him out there against any of the Mavericks’ guards.
- The Good News: It’s worth mentioning that the Clippers did a tremendous job of taking care of the ball for the most part, coughing up just one turnover in the first half and five overall. This saved them for most of the night. Pregame, Lue also emphasized that the Clippers needed to “be physical” and not give up “open threes” to Porziņģis. This was a job well done by L.A. as KP was held to just 14 points (4-13 FG, 1-5 3PT) and four rebounds.
- Up Next: The Clippers will host Game 2 of their first round series versus the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center on Tuesday, May 25 at 7:30 p.m. PT.
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