After a spirited Game 4 performance, the LA Clippers gave home court advantage right back to the Mavericks, losing a pivotal Game 5 123-93 at home.


The game had the feel of a matinee game, as the Clippers stars started off very slowly. Thankfully, the Clippers supporting cast of Terance Mann and Ivica Zubac scored 15 of LA’s 24 points in the first quarter. Paul George and James Harden were ice cold, combined 2 of 10 in the quarter, though Harden was at least finding the role players to finish plays. Meanwhile Dallas was led by a hobbled Luka Doncic and the high-jumping Derrick Jones Jr., with contributions from Kyrie Irving and Dereck Lively.

The second quarter was all Dallas. Dallas’ game plan was clearly to push the pace, and it was working. Poor defensive gambles by Russell Westbrook and Mason Plumlee often left the Clippers scrambling, leading to 4 (!) wide open three pointers made by Maxi Kleber for 12 points in the frame, and 8 easy points for Daniel Gafford. For the Clippers, Paul George looked invisible on offense (up to 7 for the half) and disengaged on defense. The dynamic duo of Terance and Zu were up to 24 points, with Norman Powell contributing 6 points as well. But it wasn’t enough as the Clippers found themselves trailing by 10 at halftime. 

The third quarter was more of the same. The Clippers scored 4 points for the large majority of the period, largely thanks to Paul George somehow further retreating into his shell. The lead swelled to 25 before Ty Lue inserted PJ Tucker into the game with 2:50 left in the period. Tucker immediately had an impact with his energy. The Clippers managed to cut the lead to 16, thanks to a series of stops and George finally finding his shooting stroke, before Plumlee committed a backbreakingly stupid foul, giving up a 4-point play to Josh Green and leaving the Clippers trailing by 20 again.

In the fourth quarter, the Clippers came out with desperate energy, but it wasn’t enough against the comfortable and disciplined Mavericks. There were multiple possessions with multiple attempts that ended up fruitless, and that pretty much ended the night for the Clippers. With 7 minutes left in the game Ty pulled the stars. More than any other game this series, the Clippers sorely missed Kawhi Leonard’s steadying presence and star power tonight.


Where’s Pauldo?: Aside from a brief stretch at the end of the third quarter, Paul George was the most frustrating version of himself: the one that seems to prefer being a role player standing in the corner and giving the ball to the team’s actual stars. He was constantly throwing grenades to his teammates, forcing Amir Coffey and Norman Powell to create something out of nothing with less than 5 seconds on the clock. Paul would often look like he was going to make something happen, and then the briefest hint of defense would send him backpedaling. It might seem harsh, but he’s supposed to be the best scorer for the Clippers right now. Credit to the defense of course, but there was just no effort and drive tonight. The Clippers absolutely cannot survive another performance like this from him. 15 points in a must-win game on 31% shooting with 0 steals and 0 blocks. Paul can—no, Paul must be better.

The Harden Roller Coaster: After a masterclass in Game 4, we knew the other side of the Harden coin was coming at some point. Harden’s shot wasn’t falling all game, but at least in the first half he was finding his teammates. But in the second half he completely lost the plot, with 0 assists and 3 turnovers. I’m in no way blaming this loss on Harden because the Clippers can survive nights like this from him, as they have many times this season, even when short-handed. But the Clippers can’t survive nights like this when they’re also getting the goofy version of Paul George.

Defending the Role Players: The Clippers got solid games from Zu, Terance, and Norman, but the Mavericks’ role players outplayed them. Kleber was a flamethrower from deep, hitting timely three after timely three, DJJ was blocking shots left and right, and Lively was a constant lob threat. The Clippers had been defending the Mavericks’ stars well enough all series, making them score the hard way. But their inability to stop the Mavericks’ role players tonight was what doomed them. And it’s not like Dallas’ supporting cast is particularly adept at scoring, but poor rotations and puzzling defensive decision-making led to a lot of wide open shots.

Luka Doncic Flu Game: After telling the media he was sick, Luka proceeded to put up 35 points on 54% shooting. Next time I’m going to need to see a doctor’s note because I call BS.

And that was Game 5. Let’s never, ever speak of it again. Fortunately for the Clippers, they’re better on the road than at home this year. So by my estimation they’ve still got a puncher’s chance at tying up the series 3-3 and sending this thing back to LA for Game 7.

Erik Olsgaard

Erik Olsgaard

Erik has been a fan of the Clippers since 2004 and a member of the Clippers blogging community since 2009. He took a brief hiatus from writing, but now he's back with 213 Hoops, to provide an elder millennial's perspective on all things Clippers. You can always count on Erik to get to the truth of the matter by marrying up stats with the eye-test.

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