For the first eight minutes of Game 3, it appeared the Dallas Mavericks were going to blowout the Clippers and take a commanding 3-0 lead in their first-round series. After a Jalen Brunson floater, the Mavericks led 30-11. Luka Doncic, who had 11 points in the first quarter, went to the bench with Dallas up 17. With Doncic on the bench, the Clippers went on a 14-2 run to cut the lead seven, and ultimately, the Clippers trailed 34-31 after one quarter.
The Clippers would take the lead in the second quarter and lead 63-61 at the break. In the fourth, Los Angeles would take a 10-point lead with just over five minutes left and win Game 3 1118-108 at American Airlines Center.
Dallas still leads the series 2-1.
This was the Mavericks’ first loss of the season when leading after the first quarter. Per Elias Sports Bureau, the Mavericks were the first team in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55) to go undefeated in games in which they were ahead after the first quarter over the course of a regular season.
Kawhi Leonard scored 18 of his 36 points in the first half, and Paul George had 22 of his 29 points in the first half, while Luka Doncic had a postseason career-high 44 points(26 in the first half), including seven threes, to go along with nine rebounds and nine assists.
“We obviously got off to a very fast start, and then they climbed back into it,” Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle said after the game. “They shot it great. Their two superstars had great games. They rode those guys; they played very well. We’re going to have to play better in Game 4.”
Dallas will have to get more out of their star, Kristaps Porzingis, who shot 3/10 for the field and scored only nine points in 34 minutes. The Clippers went small at times in this game, and Porzingis and the Mavericks could not take advantage of it.
“I definitely can do a better job of sealing the guards when I have (a) guard on me,” Porzingis said. “Also, I have to score on those post-ups that I have. I had great looks, and I just missed shots, and sometimes it’s just like that; you miss shots.”
Clippers head coach Ty Lue applauded his team’s play on Friday night, including the play of his two stars, Leonard and George.
“I thought PG [Paul George] really carried us in the first half, and then Kawhi [Leonard] in the second half really tipped over the game,” Lue said. “That is what we needed from those two guys. Reggie [Jackson] chipped in. Marcus [Morris Sr.] made some shots. [Rajon] Rondo came in the whole second half to pick up Luka full court and wear him down. It was a total team effort, but like I said, Kawhi and PG really put us on their shoulders.”
George added: “We took the punch. We didn’t have a choice. We didn’t have a choice but to rally together, stay strong, stay together and continue fighting. That’s what the series is now. We are down 2-1. We’ve got to fight to even the series back up and take home-court advantage back.”
Dallas is still in control of this series, but they need to win Game 4. Give the Clippers a lot of credit, especially after being down early.
It all comes down to what happens in Game 4 on Sunday. If the Clippers win Game 4, they get home-court advantage back and would have two of the final three games in their building. Conversely, if the Mavericks win Game 4, they take a commanding 3-1 lead.
So, again, it all comes down to what happens on Sunday in Dallas.
– Brunson came off the bench and had 14 points on 5-8 shooting (4-6 from deep) in 22 minutes for Dallas, while Maxi Kleber added 14 points on 5-9 shooting (4-7 from deep) in 35 minutes.
-The Mavericks welcomed a near-capacity crowd back to American Airlines Center for the first time since March 2019 and had 17,705 fans in attendance. This was Dallas’ first home playoff game in five years(2016).
“It was amazing, not only the first quarter, but the whole game,” Doncic said about the crowd. “They are amazing, I really appreciate everybody who came. I hope they come again in two days, they are amazing. I wish we would have given them a win, but we will try it on Sunday and I hope it will be the same energy.”