What if I told you the Dallas Mavericks beat the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 1 of their NBA Playoffs First Round series with Luka Doncic only scoring one point in the fourth quarter?
Would you believe me?
Well, you’d have to, because it happened.
Behind a 31-point, 11-assist, 10-rebound and one-point fourth quarter from Doncic, the Mavericks beat the Clippers 113-103, stealing homecourt advantage from Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon.
“Having lost last season to them gives us that little bit of the experience we need,” Kristaps Porzingis, who struggled for a majority of the game, said. “In this first game, we did what we expected ourselves to do. Now it’s on to the next one.”
For a Game 1, things went according to plan for Dallas…sorta.
Early in the first quarter, the Mavericks jumped out to a somewhat commanding lead by playing at the pace they were accustomed to and getting the looks they wanted offensively.
Doncic attacked the Clippers, who initially chose to switch pick-and-rolls he was involved in. They shouldn’t have. He went at every mismatch possible, scoring 12 points in the first quarter. And he did it by getting to his preferred spots on the floor, at will.
“Luka has seen every coverage known to mankind,” head coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s just a matter of getting to the right spot when he gets double-teamed… He’s gotta keep giving them [the Clippers] a different dose of looks offensively.
“He was great tonight.”
Doncic saw double-teams, switches, triple-teams, and any other look the Ty Lue could conjure up through the next three quarters. It didn’t matter. Any shot he wanted, he got. And when he didn’t have a look at the basket, Doncic found players like Dorian Finney-Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr., who both had monumental nights offensively.
Finney-Smith scored a playoff career-high 18 points on 7-9 from the field and 4-5 from three. Hardaway Jr. added 21 points on 8-13 from the field and 5-9 from three.
“They were doubling Luka so we just wanted to be aggressive and make sure we found the open man,” Hardaway Jr. said.
Those two role players scored big baskets in the fourth quarter when Dallas’ first-half lead dwindled into nonexistence.
Finney-Smith totaled six points in the fourth quarter, both being key 3-pointers when the game hung in the balance. Hardaway Jr. scored five points in the frame and took a big charge on Paul George, resulting in a Clippers turnover, and 3-pointer for himself on the offensive end.
“Being in these situations over and over again helped us this year when the games get down into the wire when we need that one more possession or one more rebound or one more shot,” Finney-Smith said. “They are going to send two guys at Luka, we just gotta be ready to shoot.”
And man they sure were ready. So as Doncic struggle to find looks at the basket due to the Clippers’ swarming fourth-quarter defense, it was the “others” on the floor that picked up the slack in the final frame. Now to show for it is a Game 1 victory and a 1-0 Mavericks series lead.
“We knew they were going to make their run at some point in the game,” Hardaway Jr. said. “We just had to make sure we weathered the storm.”
Winning Game 1 is a huge step towards Dallas winning its first playoff series since 2011. However, the Mavs still have a long way to go. Three more wins to be exact. Doncic’s triple-double paved the way through the majority of the game, and as he was held to one point in the fourth quarter, it was Finney-Smith and Hardaway Jr. who finished the job.
Now, it’s on to Game 2.
Feature image via Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports.