Sport Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle on Luka Doncic’s Game 1 play vs. Clippers: 'This is his time of year'
2021 NBA first-round playoff previews: (4) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (5) Dallas Mavericks
The Clippers wanted to be here. Of course, they avoided the Lakers altogether in last year's playoffs, because they blew a 3-1 series lead to the Denver Nuggets in the second round. The Clippers also reworked their roster around Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, who again played at All-NBA levels. Gone are the dynamic bench duo of Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams, replaced by the steadier veteran hands of Serge Ibaka and Rajon Rondo. Additions of Nicolas Batum and Luke Kennard, along with the development of Terance Mann, give Lue more wing options to mix and match. There is even an occasional DeMarcus Cousins sighting.
LOS ANGELES — Sometimes, Luka Doncic faced double-teams. Sometimes, he saw opponents take turns guarding him. Sometimes, they even trapped him at halfcourt.
It did not matter. Most of the time, Doncic dominated anyway.
The Dallas Mavericks finished withon Saturday at Staples Center, a victory that gave the Mavs home-court advantage because of two developments that first became prevalent during last year’s postseason matchup. While the Clippers have continuously remained vulnerable as an underachiever, Doncic has continued to blossom into stardom.
Clippers-Mavericks: Luka Doncic's revenge factor, Paul George's demons among things to know in playoff rematch
The Clippers and Mavericks face off for the second consecutive season in the playoffsThe Clippers are once again heavy favorites entering this series, and after last season's second-round exit, this team has taken a quieter, more focused approach to the season this year. Some overhaul in the offseason, most notably the firing of Doc Rivers and the insertion of Ty Lue at head coach, gave the Clippers a renewed sense of purpose entering the season. While it wasn't the same dominant display they put on last year in the regular season, L.A. is still a championship-contending team by all accounts.
"This is his time of year," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "He’s one of the smartest basketball players you will ever meet at any age at any level."
After posting 31 points while shooting 11-of-24 from the field and 5-of-11 from 3-point range along with 11 assists and 10 rebounds, Doncic became only the ninth player in NBA history to record multiple postseason 30-point triple-doubles. Only LeBron James (15), Oscar Robertson (8), Russell Westbrook (6), Charles Barkley (2), Stephen Curry (2), Jimmy Butler (2), Wilt Chamberlain (2) and James Harden (2) have produced similar numbers.
"I hope I’m at my best, but I think that’s far away," Doncic said. "I’m only in my third season, so I have a lot to learn."
How do you solve a problem like Luka Doncic?
The key defensive challenge for the Clippers will be containing the head of the snake.Despite LA winning the series fairly comfortably, Dončić had his way with the Clippers defense, which is why any discussion of the upcoming series has to start with Dallas’ head of the snake.
"Playoffs are fun, especially if you win."
Luka Doncic meets with the media after dropping 31 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in the— Bally Sports Southwest (@BallySportsSW) Game 1 win over the Clippers.
He already has learned plenty. At only 22 years old, Doncic has already won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award, appeared in two All-Star games and became one of the league’s most dangerous players. Doncic finished with two other 30-point games against the Clippers in their six-game first-round series last season. Doncic also buried a game-winning 3-pointer in Game 4, a play that Carlisle likened to something James or Larry Bird would do. Less than a year later, Doncic still gave the Clippers headaches.
How the Clippers Can Slow Luka Dončić Down
Dončić and the Mavericks beat the Clippers in Game 1, but L.A.’s defense didn’t lack the effort. View the original article to see embedded media.There’s no more fascinating chess match already underway in the first round of these NBA playoffs than Luka Dončić–led pick-and-rolls vs. the Clippers’ dynamic defense. During the regular season, whenever Kawhi Leonard and Paul George shared the floor, L.A. allowed just 104.9 points per 100 possessions, a mark that’s nearly two whole points lower than what the first-place Lakers finished at. In Game 1, the Clippers’ defensive rating in 33 minutes together was 132.3.
PRESSURE IN LA:
Doncic cross-matched with Clippers center Ivica Zubac at the top of the key in plays that either ended with him finishing at the rim, making a step-back jumper or pulling up from deep. Doncic posted up an undersized Patrick Beverley before driving to the basket. Doncic sized up bigger defender in Paul George and Zubac, and he feasted on them, too. Even when the Clippers switched, Doncic either drove past them or nailed shots from deep.
"Luka has seen virtually every coverage known to mankind, every kind of double-team, every kind of switching scenario and double-teaming 30 feet away from the basket," Carlisle said. "It’s just a matter of getting to the right spots when he gets double-teamed."
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Game 2: Tue, 10:30pm/et, NBA TV— NBA (@NBA)
And for the Clippers, it was a matter of rarely getting to the right spots in any case. It's fair to question why the Clippers had forward Kawhi Leonard mostly defend Mavs center Kristaps Porzingis, given Doncic’s scoring punch. Clippers coach Tyronn Lue contended that concern "doesn’t matter" in the modern game that calls for positional versatility and switching anyway. Regardless, how the Clippers defended Doncic did not match what Lue had envisioned anyway.
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"Just making sure we’re on the same page. We wanted to get the ball out of his hands in the first half, but we didn’t execute the way we wanted to," Lue said. "We had a lot of breakdowns and a lot of mistakes defensively that we didn’t execute right."
During their last series, the Clippers executed simply by playing overly physical with Doncic both to limit his looks and increase his frustration. The Mavericks never explicitly described the Clippers as dirty, but they considered their approach to be over the line. It also helped that Doncic nursed a left ankle injury while the Mavs missed Porzingis both because of a Game 1 ejection and a subsequent injury for the series’ final three games.
This time, none of those factors emerged in Game 1. So as Doncic met various defenders, he dominated in both the first quarter (12) and second (nine points) before the Clippers reconsidered their tactics. To open the second half, the Clippers began trapping Doncic at midcourt. Doncic still finished with nine third-quarter points, but the Clippers caught a break when he collected a third foul while the Mavericks nursed a 71-65 lead with 6:05 left. Doncic became visibly agitated on the sideline before sitting on the bench in warm-up clothes. But when the Clippers trimmed Dallas’ lead to 75-73 at the 3:56 mark, Doncic returned to the court.
The legend of Luka Doncic grows with a masterful demolition of the Clippers
Who knows if he sat back in utter disbelief when the Clippers gave away games to end the regular season to avoid an early matchup with the Lakers, but his name must be “Karma” and it’s kicking the Clippers right where it hurts. “I didn’t even know they were doing that,” Doncic said of the Clippers’ season-ending strategy. The Clippers played these first two games as if they’re feeling the pressure, with Doncic applying the screws both with his aforementioned truths and his cool play. He doesn’t seem rushed or bothered, which seems to be a harbinger for even better play as the series shifts to a packed house in Dallas this weekend.
"He remembers the series last year and some of the chippy things that happened. I thought last year in the series, he did a great job of maintaining his poise," Carlisle said. "He knows that we got to be a next-play mentality team. He has to be one of the leaders. This series will continue to be extremely challenging because of the physical nature of it and the fact that the Clippers have a bunch of great defenders and are throwing all kinds of things at him as well."
Therefore, Doncic did not fret that he scored only one point in the fourth quarter. Fatigue may have caught up to him and the Clippers’ defense relatively improved. That development also pointed to Doncic’s willingness to make adjustments. The Clippers' heavy focus on Doncic eventually led to four other Mavs players crack double figures, including Tim Hardaway Jr. (21 points), Dorian Finney-Smith (18), Jalen Brunson (15) and Porzingis (14).
"When Luka gets going," Finney-Smith said, "I just try to stay ready because I know they’re about to start trapping him."
Good thing Doncic and his teammates stayed ready. Doncic set up Porzingis for a dunk before swinging the ball to Hardaway Jr. and Finney Smith for consecutive 3-pointers that gave Dallas a 103-100 lead with 2:50 left. Just over a minute later, Doncic found Hardaway Jr. open for a layup that gave the Mavericks a seven-point cushion.
"I just got to adjust," Doncic said. "When they don’t double, attack it. When they double, somebody is going to be open. Just read the game."
Look: Patrick Mahomes and Luka Doncic share special moment after Mavs take Game 2 from Clippers
Patrick Mahomes and Luka Doncic shared a big hug after the Chiefs quarterback watched the Mavericks beat the Clippers to take a 2-0 series lead over the Clippers on Tuesday night. There may not be two bigger young stars in sports than Patrick Mahomes and Luka Doncic right now. They were both in t he same building on Tuesday night when the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback was in attendance to see Doncic lead the Dallas Mavericks to a 127-121 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. The win was a triumphant one for Doncic who leads the Mavericks in points, rebounds and assists after the first two postseason games.
Doncic read the game well alright — enough to steal Game 1 and etch his name once again in the NBA record books.
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2021 NBA Playoffs: Clippers vs. Mavericks odds, line, picks, Game 4 predictions from model on 99-66 roll .
SportsLine's projection model simulated Clippers vs. Mavericks 10,000 timesHowever, the Clippers still don't have an answer for Luka Doncic, who poured in 44 points on Friday and is now averaging 38.0 points, 9.0 assists and 8.7 assists per game in this series. Los Angeles is a three-point favorite with the over-under for total points listed at 221 in the latest Clippers vs. Mavericks odds at William Hill Sportsbook. Before locking in any Mavericks vs. Clippers picks, be sure to see the NBA predictions and betting advice from SportsLine's proven computer model.