The 2019-20 Dallas Mavericks finally figured out a way to beat the Los Angeles Clippers.
After losing all three regular-season matchups, including a seeding game, and Game 1 of their postseason showdown, Dallas evened its Western Conference first-round playoff series with a 127-114 victory in Wednesday's Game 2 at Walt Disney World Resort.
Luka Doncic led the way in a balanced effort for the victors, helping counter an impressive showing from Kawhi Leonard on the other side. Six Mavericks finished in double figures as they maintained their lead even when Doncic dealt with foul trouble.
Notable Player Stats
- Luka Doncic, G, DAL: 28 PTS, 8 REB, 7 AST
- Kristaps Porzingis, F, DAL: 23 PTS, 7 REB
- Tim Hardaway Jr., G, DAL: 17 PTS
- Trey Burke, G, DAL: 16 PTS, 3 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL
- Seth Curry, G, DAL: 15 PTS, 3 AST
- Boban Marjanovic, C, DAL: 13 PTS, 9 REB
- Kawhi Leonard, F, LAC: 35 PTS, 10 REB
- Lou Williams, G, LAC: 23 PTS, 7 AST
- Paul George, F, LAC: 14 PTS, 10 REB
Luka Continues to Shine, Bench Preserves Win
His team may eventually lose to the championship-contending Clippers, but the 21-year-old Doncic has already made his mark on the national stage.
The situation was stacked against him in Game 1 when he went to the locker room with an injury and struggled with turnovers as Patrick Beverley hounded him while Dallas fell behind by double digits in the opening stretch. All he did was engineer a comeback to take the lead that only fell apart after Kristaps Porzingis was ejected following a questionable second technical foul.
Doncic was still brilliant and finished with 42 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.
He picked up right where he left off Wednesday and caught fire from three-point range, played through contact at the rim, battled on the boards and facilitated with head-turning vision whenever he drew additional defensive attention. Most importantly, he cut down on his turnovers (one) with Beverley sidelined by a calf injury.
It wasn't just his own production that stood out but also the way his mere presence tilted the defense and created space for Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Seth Curry and even Boban Marjanovic on the inside.
It appeared as if all that would go to waste, though, when Doncic picked up his fifth foul in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. But Trey Burke maintained full control of the offense during an impressive stretch off the bench.
Curry did the same when he came in for Burke, providing another ball-handler who could hit from the outside and glide into the lane while keeping the ball moving and Dallas' offense rolling.
By the time Doncic returned, the Mavericks were in full control and eventually evened the series.
Not Enough Help for Kawhi, Lou Williams
Sometimes playoff losses fall on the shoulders of the best player.
That was far from the case for the Clippers on Wednesday.
Leonard was his typical self, exploding to the rim for dunks, hitting contested mid-range shots and competing on the glass while guarding Doncic and others on the defensive side. Under normal circumstances, it likely would have been enough for L.A., but he didn't have sufficient help.
In fact, the entire starting lineup had two total assists in the first half.
Beverley was sidelined, but the biggest issue was Paul George. He was scoreless in the first half, air-balled a three-pointer in the third quarter and struggled with his shot throughout (4-of-17 from the field). While he eventually found the scoreboard and did what he could on the boards to make up for his struggles, it was not the type of performance one would expect from a six-time All-Star.
Lou Williams took over the role of No. 2 option by slashing into the lane, hitting from the outside and facilitating, but the lack of a usual showing from George left the Clippers fighting an uphill battle all game.
Game 3 of the series, when Dallas will technically be the home team, is Friday at 9 p.m. ET.