Kristaps Porzingis didn’t play well for three quarters of Game 1 against the Los Angeles Clippers. But it’s not the end of the world.
His usually consistent outside jumper failed him.
His typically effective midrange game disappeared on him. And he was seemingly allergic to rebounding during impactful stretches of Saturday’s affair.
However, things clearly changed in the fourth quarter. The pesty and petulant defense the Clippers played on Porzingis lightened up. He got some needed looks around the basket. And in the final eight minutes, he scored six points while grabbing two rebounds. He made two of three shots in the frame and added in clutch free throws right when Dallas needed them.
“I had an off night tonight and we still were able to get the win. The other guys stepped up and played great,” Porzingis said after the game. “Patience is a big thing and I get frustrated [and sometimes] feel like I’m out of the offense.”
In all, he ended the night with 14 points on 4-13 shooting from the field. There was a point in the game where he was 2-10, but as great players do, he found a way to find a semblance of rhythm when it mattered most.
Yet, Porzingis’ struggles weren’t due to him not being ready to play in Game 1. Throughout the majority of the game, he was guarded by an All NBA level defender in Kawhi Leonard. And when Leonard is locked in, he can slow down nearly any star in the NBA. Porzingis’ poor shooting numbers through three quarters clearly prove that.
“He’s got a top-five defensive player in the world guarding him in Kawhi Leonard,” Rick Carlisle said. “They have that much respect for his abilities at the offensive end. And he did a very good job of staying patient and finding ways to create advantages as the game went along.
“I loved his discipline, his patience, and the big free throws were huge at the end of the game. And the dunk put a cap on it.”
Leonard’s defense on Porzingis isn’t an excuse, but instead an explanation. Porzingis will have to find an answer to Leonard’s persistence and disruption on that end of the floor for Dallas to win the series. But for a Game 1, he did enough to help the Mavericks steal a win on the road.
Also, Porzingis just might be right. It could have been a simple “off night” for him offensively.
People are so quick to forget, Porzingis is a great bounce-back player. Very rarely does he put together multiple poor offensive nights in a row.
In Game 1 of the 2020 NBA Playoff series between these two ball clubs, Porzingis scored 14 points and was ejected from the game. And then, in Game 3, he totaled 34 points and 13 rebounds on a hurt knee that forced him to miss the rest of the series.
A subpar Game 1 doesn’t promise a subpar series. Don’t count him out after a bad playoff game. He’s human not a basketball-playing machine. Off nights happen, but that doesn’t mean Mavericks fans everywhere should panic over Porzingis’ struggles. The Mavericks are the best version of themselves when their star big man is playing well. And they will need that version of themselves if they hope to upset the heavily favored Clippers in round one.
“We’re a strength in numbers operation,” Carlisle said. “And KP is a great player.”
Feature image via Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports.