The Dallas Mavericks won Game 2, and after the game, the Los Angeles Clippers said they weren’t worried about the series going forward.
They should be.
Teams that take a commanding 2-0 series lead win the series 93.7 percent of the time, according to landofbasketball.com. And in the previous six seasons, only five teams have clawed back from 0-2 deficits to win their respective series. So when Clippers forward Paul George was asked about any relative concerns, his peculiar answer induced some head-scratching on my part.
“There is none,” George said. “We got to rise to the occasion. Fact of the matter is if we don’t, we’re done for. There’s no level of concern.”
Clippers coach Tyronn Lue backed up George’s beliefs stating that he’s “not concerned” and that “[the Mavericks] won two games on our home floor and now we got to return the favor.”
They may not be concerned, but let’s see what history has to say about 0-2 series comebacks. The last five teams to comeback are the 2019 Toronto Raptors, the 2018 Cleveland Cavaliers, the 2017 Boston Celtics, the 2016 Cavaliers, and the 2016 Portland Trail Blazers.
Out of those five teams, only one team faced with a 0-2 deficit, lost its first two games at home. That team was the 2017 Celtics, who dropped Game 1 and Game 2 to the No. 8 seeded Chicago Bulls. An injury to the Bulls’ Rajon Rondo during Game 2 changed the trajectory of the series, as he missed the remaining four games with a fractured thumb. Boston lucked out, winning four straight games without Playoff Rondo on the floor.
The other four teams on the list faced an 0-2 series deficit heading home for the next two games, not away.
In fact, the last team – that wasn’t the 2017 Celtics – to win a series after being down 0-2 and losing homecourt advantage, was the 2005 Dallas Mavericks when they played the Houston Rockets in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
That was 16 years ago. So, at least according to league history, the Clippers should be a little bit worried.
Cant stop Doncic:
Yet, outside of league history, another reason Los Angeles needs to be worried is they have no answer for Luka Doncic through two games thus far.
Doncic has two 30-plus-point performances in this series alone. He tallied a 31-point triple-double in Game 1, and he followed that up with a 39-point, seven-assist, and seven-rebound performance in Game 2.
He’s shooting an efficient 50 percent from the field and 41 percent from three. And the scariest part is, there are aspects to his game that he can still improve on heading into Game 3 of the series.
One of those areas for improvement for Doncic in this series is his free throw shooting. Currently, he’s shooting 42 percent from the line on roughly seven attempts a game. If he can pull his percentages to where they were in the regular season (73 percent), there would really be no answer for him defensively.
Regardless, he is still torching the Clippers without being a knock-down free throw shooter. So maybe the Clippers should be a little bit worried?
Role player contributions:
Doncic’s play has opened up the floor for Dallas’ role players, who have carved up the Clippers throughout both games in the series.
In Game 1, it was Dorian Finney-Smith’s 18-point performance. In Game 2, it was Tim Hardaway Jr.’s six made 3-pointers and 28 points scored. And down the stretch in Game 2, it was Josh Richardson’s timely nine points when the game hung in the balance.
Doncic’s on-court gravity has led to numerous open looks for everyone else on the floor. And those players tasked with playing smaller roles within Dallas’ offense have stepped up and made big shots when called on.
“We have some experience under our belt. We have some other young-veteran guys – Josh Richardson and Tim Hardaway Jr. – that have played in playoff series before,” Rick Carlisle said. “These guys know what this is about. Our guys are hungry to compete and play for each other.”
In playing for each other, Dallas’ offense has scorched Los Angeles to the tune of 120 points per game (ranked No.5 for teams in the playoffs). The Mavericks are also shooting a playoff leading 54 percent from the field and 50 percent from three. Los Angeles doesn’t have an answer for Doncic, but the defense also doesn’t have an answer for the players surrounding him on the floor.
Mavericks headed home:
Now, the Mavs are headed home. They will not only have a blistering offense to rely on, but they will also have 15,000 Mavs fans that have been held out of the arena for a year. For the first time in Doncic’s career, he will have a playoff home game. If he tortured the Clippers in the Staples Center, what might happen when given the boost of a crazed fanbase eager to see their star play?
He’s a performer, who has a knack for playing his best basketball when it matters most.
George and Lue may say they aren’t worried, and if that is true, they shouldn’t be shocked if they wake up on Saturday morning staring at a 3-0 series deficit. Remember, the Clippers tanked to play Dallas. The Mavs showed the world they were ready for the matchup. And now the odds are in Dallas’ favor with a chance to deal a death blow to a reeling Clippers team.
You’d think they’d at least be a little bit worried, but they’re not…They should be.
Feature image via Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports.