The LA Clippers opened up their postseason campaign by defeating the Dallas Mavericks 118-110 in controversial fashion. Early in the third quarter, Kristaps Porzingis was hit with his second technical foul and subsequently ejected from the game. Following his ejection, the momentum of the game completely changed.
The First Quarter
To start the game, the Clippers were up 18-2. They forced multiple turnovers on Mavericks Guard Luka Doncic and got some easy points in transition. However, Porzingis and Doncic responded and turned the game around. Dallas responded with a 36-16 run to end the first quarter. The former hit some difficult contested jumpers to cut the deficit down. Doncic then responded well from his rough start and started carving the Clippers defense open in the pick and roll.
The Second Quarter
In the second, Dallas hit their stride offensively on both ends, going up 50-36. The Mavericks set a franchise playoff record from deep in the first half with 12 treys, mostly by Tim Hardaway Jr. and Seth Curry. The Clippers were incredibly stagnant and had possessions resulting in too much iso ball, which we have seen from Paul George teams in the past. Reggie Jackson had arguably his worst game in a Clipper uniform, going 0/4 in the first half and not moving the ball offensively. The Clippers need to have Lou Williams be their primary ball handler off the bench. He’s as good a pick and roll threat as they come. Reggie on the other hand, should run some pick and roll himself, to take some pressure off of Lou.
The Third Quarter
Nonetheless, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were steady most of the half and got the Clippers back in the game. With the Clippers trailing 66-71, Marcus Morris gave Luka Doncic an extra shove after a whistle was blown. Morris proceeded to get in Doncic’s face, before Porzingis came to his teammates’ defense and gave the former Kansas Jayhawk a little push. Morris and Porzingis were hit with double-technical fouls. With the latter already having a technical, he was ejected from the game.
Was it Warranted?
The call has sparked a lot of controversy in the NBA world, however it was the right call. Following the game, the NBA released a statement confirming the referee’s decisions. Do I like it? Not one bit. The NBA has become soft and gone above and beyond to protect players and their safety. The swinging of the fist technical, which Porzingis and Paul George were both hit with, have been automatic technicals for around 10 years now. The second, for being in an altercation, was standard.
Throughout the season, one thing discussed when talking about the Clippers personnel, is the amount of gritty players they have. Marcus Morris is one of them. For instance, he knew exactly what he was trying to start and he accomplished his goal. That was to rattle the other team. The NBA rules deem any sort of physical contact between teams in an altercation a technical foul, and Morris and Porzingis were assessed double technicals.
As a result, the Clippers took control of the game and brought it home 118-110 to take a 1-0 series lead over the Mavericks. For the Mavericks, Luka Doncic was spectacular, finishing with 42 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists in his playoff debut. It was the highest scoring playoff debut in NBA history. The kid is beginning his road to an almost definite hall of fame career, and showing he can do it on the big stage.
In the end, encouraging signs for the Clippers were the performances of their duo, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The former finished with 29 points, 12 boards, and 6 assists on 11/21 shooting in his Clipper playoff debut. George was really solid as well, adding 27 points including the dagger to put the Clippers up eight with under a minute left. Marcus Morris was also spectacular with 19 points and 6 rebounds on 8/13 shooting and 3/6 from downtown. Additionally, he did the best job of any Clipper when guarding Luka Doncic.
As I alluded to in my last article, the Clippers haven’t been fully healthy in the bubble and it’s a bit concerning. For example, last night saw Montrezl Harrell make his return to play and he was extremely rusty, finishing with only six points in 15 minutes. Patrick Beverley was the same, having not played in two weeks. However, the important thing is that the Clippers are 1-0 in the Playoffs for the first time since 2016. They look to extend their series lead on Wednesday in game two.