Game 2 between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Dallas Mavericks came down to who blinked first.
And after a 30-point first-half from Kawhi Leonard and a 2-point halftime lead, it looked like the Clippers might pull away. However, a defensive-oriented second half, and continued offensive execution from Dallas, gave Luka Doncic and company the last laugh in Staples Center, as the Mavs won 127-121 on Tuesday night.
“To this point, we have been very focused and very determined. We just have to make sure that continues,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said after the game. “It’s a seven-game series… We gotta refocus and get ready for game three. I look forward to it.”
Doncic ended the night with 39 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists. It was another game in which he was unflappable in the face of Los Angeles’ defensive pressure. Whether it was Paul George, Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr., Patrick Beverley, or Nicolas Batum, Doncic tormented them all.
“I wanted to go out there and play aggressive and have fun,” Doncic said. “They have some good defenders in PG and Kawhi, but you just got to be aggressive. That’s it.”
Doncic’s game was masterful. He never rushed. He never worried. Instead, when given a different look by the Clippers’ defense, he responded like a grizzled veteran who knew the opposing team’s game plan before they executed it themselves.
He made incredible shots like this look routine (!).
COME ON. Luka running one-legged fadeaway 3 pic.twitter.com/Y7MVMDSJXl
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) May 26, 2021
Tonight marked another historic night for the Mavs’ star point guard. Through three quarters, he scored 35 points making it the fourth time in his career that he scored 30+ through three quarters in his eight career playoff games.
He did that against a team that is supposed to have all these expendable, switchable, wings to throw at perimeter ball handlers like Doncic. Simply put, Los Angeles has no answer for him. As a team, the Clippers still look committed to switching smaller guards onto Doncic. When someone makes their bed, they have to lay in it. And if after Game 1, Ty Lue didn’t see how that defensive game plan failed, the Game 2 results are now what Los Angeles has to live with.
Locked in defensively:
Outside of Doncic’s outstanding offensive performance, the Mavericks’ defense changed the trajectory of the game in the second half. Dallas gave up 73 points to the Clippers on 62 percent from the field through the first two quarters. After the intermission, the Mavs’ defense keyed in on Leonard and George, and as a result, Dallas held Los Angeles to 48 points on 43 percent from the field through the final two quarters.
The third quarter was hands down Dallas’ best defensive quarter of the postseason. Los Angeles produced just 19 points, and the electric Leonard scored just four points on four shots. Dallas also held the Clippers to 7-19 from the field and 2-9 from three in the quarter. The swarming defense set the Mavericks up for a fourth-quarter run that shut the door on the possibility of a Clippers win.
“To be able to hold them to 19 in the third quarter, that set us up to win the game,” Carlisle said. “That third-quarter defense really set the tone.”
A big part of the outstanding Mavericks defense was Kristaps Porzingis. He tallied a playoff career-high 3 steals and 2 blocks in Tuesday night’s win. He also scored 20 points and grabbed four rebounds to go along with the monumental defensive effort.
“[I] just stayed patient with it,” Porzingis said. “Good situations came to me, and my teammates found me. Things were clicking tonight and I am happy with the result.”
Headed home for Game 3:
Doncic was sensational, again. He really leaves his best performances for when the stage is the biggest and its brightest. Now, Dallas is headed home with a 2-0 series lead over the Clippers, who tanked at the end of the regular season to play the Mavs in round one. The tables turn quickly in basketball. When teams have a 2-0 series lead, they win the series on average 93.7 percent of the time. It looks as though the Clippers bit off more than they can chew in this matchup. Not even a 41-point Leonard performance could drag out a win at home for the little brother in LA.
Now, it’s on to Dallas. Sorry LA, you blinked.
“If you want to win a championship you got to win against everyone,” Doncic said. “We are just trying to win.”
Feature image via Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports.