When you go on the road to start a playoff series, the goal is to get at least one, and on Saturday in Los Angeles against the Clippers, the Dallas Mavericks did just that.
Behind a triple-double from Luka Doncic, who had 31 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds and Tim Hardway Jr’s. 21 points, the Mavericks defeated the Clippers 113-103 in Game 1 of their first-round series.
Game 2 is on Tuesday night in Los Angeles.
Doncic scored 21 of his 31 points in the first half as the Mavericks led 60-55 at halftime. Dallas maintained that lead in the third and led 86-80 after three quarters. Los Angeles would take their first lead since the second quarter early in the fourth, but Dallas would take the lead for good when Dorian Finney-Smith, who had 18 points, hit a three with just under three minutes left in the game to put Dallas ahead 103-100.
“I just know, again, they’re going to send two guys at Luka, and we’ve just got to be ready to shoot,” Finney-Smith, who made four threes against the Clippers, said after the game. “Most times in the game, people take the ball out of L.D.’s(Doncic) hands, and I just know us four have got to be ready to shoot.”
Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle was happy with the team’s effort on Saturday.
“Obviously, it’s an important game for us,” Carlisle said. “It’s a great effort, great win. Start to the game was important, gave us momentum… When they came back and took the lead in the second half, we really exhibited great poise, and we stayed aggressive. That’s what you got to do in a playoff series.”
Back to Doncic, he was held to one point in the fourth quarter as the Clippers tried to get the ball out of his hands, which he discussed after the game.
“I mean, they were double-teaming, first of all, on every possession,” Doncic said. “My legs were kind of like sore, but we won the game, man. That’s all that matters to me. If I have 0 or 15 points, that’s what’s important.”
Kristaps Porzingis, who was 4/13 from the field and finished with 14 points on Saturday, knows the Clippers will make adjustments in Game 2 on Tuesday night.
“I had an off night tonight, and we were still able to get the win,” he said. “All the guys stepped up. Luka had a huge game. I’m sure they’re going to make some adjustments, but we’re also going to get better, and it’s going to be a fun second game.”
Dallas got a huge win on Saturday, but there is a lot of basketball left in this series. It should be interesting to see how the Mavericks respond in Game 2. Will Dallas be happy with a split, or we’ll play with the same sense of urgency as they did in Game 1? We’ll find out on Tuesday night.
-Kawhi Leonard led the Clippers with 26 points, and Paul George added 23.
-Dallas was undefeated(27-0) in the regular season when leading after the first quarter, and that trend continued in the playoffs as the team led 33-30 after one quarter on Sunday.
Last season, the Dallas Mavericks returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Dallas was the seventh-seeded team in Western Conference and gave the Los Angeles Clippers a very tough playoff series before losing in six in the first round.
For Dallas, it’s a new year and a new team. The top two guys are the same in Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, but Dallas added Josh Richardson from Philadelphia in a deal that sent Seth Curry to the 76ers. Also, they had added more toughness by adding James Johnson another trade.
Tim Hardaway Jr., who returned to Dallas after opting into the final year of his contract, believes the Mavericks are a very confident team.
“We know what we have to do out there on the floor to be a productive playoff-caliber team,” Hardaway Jr. said. “And it is on us to just go out there and execute. The coaching staff has done a hell of a job this whole training camp so far of preparing us and making sure we are on track, and making sure everyone is focused. From a confidence standpoint, it is really high. We have to take that on the road when we start next week.”
According to Mavericks F Dorian Finney-Smith, the goal is not just the playoffs, but to win a title this season.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I feel like we’ve got a great group of guys, especially with the new guys. They’ve all been here, and we all want one thing – that’s to win and get back to the playoffs and win the championship.”
Dallas can be a very good team this season, but they are in the Western Conference, which won’t be easy. To get to that next level, Dallas has to defend better, and while they were not a bad defensive team last season(16th in points allowed), the defense must improve, and Richardson should help in that area.
There is a lot of talk about Doncic being one of the MVP favorites, but for that to happen, Dallas must be one of the top teams in the league, which, if they want to have a long playoff run, is something that probably needs to happen.