LOS ANGELES — For the third straight game, the Dallas Mavericks were within striking distance of pulling out a victory. But for the third straight game, they were denied that precious honor.
Paul George scored 29 points and Reggie Jackson added 23 to lead the Los Angeles Clippers to a 97-91 victory over the Mavs on Sunday afternoon at STAPLES Center. It was a game with many twists and turns, and a coach’s challenge invariably wound up playing a major role in the game’s final outcome.
SUCCESSFUL COACH’S CHALLENGE: With 52.2 seconds left, guard Jalen Brunson drove to the basket, scored, and Terance Mann was whistled for a foul. If Brunson would have made his free throw, the Mavs would have trailed the Clippers, 94-92, with plenty of time left. Instead, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue used his coach’s challenge to challenge the play. After a review by the referees, the call was reversed – much to the chagrin of the Mavs — the bucket by Brunson was taken off the board, Brunson was assessed an offensive foul, and the score was adjusted to 94-89 Clippers. Game. Set. Match.
PORZINGIS PUTTING UP NUMBERS: For those not paying attention, Kristaps Porzingis is enjoying a banner season. On Sunday, Porzingis dropped 25 points and eight rebounds on the Clippers, and said: “Obviously I haven’t felt like this for a while. The last time I can remember was probably New York. So I’m still getting in a rhythm and seeing how to play without thinking. I’m getting there. Once I get there, I feel like that’s when I’m really going to feel comfortable in every situation and see everything and take my time on every shot and everything is fine-tuned, and I think that’s when I’ll be even more effective.”
KLEBER BACK ON THE COURT: Forward/center Maxi Kleber was back on the court after missing nine games with a left oblique strain. Kleber played 20 minutes and finished with five points, four rebounds and a blocked shot, and also was solid on the defensive end of the court. “I thought Maxi, for the (20) minutes, I thought he was good,” coach Jason Kidd said. “He looked really, really good.” Kleber was 2-of-7 from the field and 1-of-5 from beyond the three-point line. More importantly, he afforded the Mavs another player in the rotation they can rely on to give them some quality minutes.
BRUNSON CONTINUES TO SHINE: Jalen Brunson has taken full advantage of Luka Doncic’s absence. In the three games Doncic has missed while dealing with sprains in his left ankle and left knee, Brunson has taken over the starting point guard duties and scored 56 points, collect 21 rebounds and distribute 23 assists. All of that activity by Brunson has come on this road trip. In Sunday’s game against the Clippers, Brunson tallied 20 points, pulled down four rebounds, dispensed eight assists and got in the passing lanes long enough to pick up three of the six steals the Mavs recorded.
MISFIRING FROM DOWNTOWN: After converting half of their three-point shots (16-of-32) during last Wednesday’s game against the Phoenix Suns, the Mavs have dipped considerably in that department over the past two contests. In Friday’s game against the Suns, the Mavs were just 12-of-40 from downtown for a mere 30 percent. And in Sunday’s loss to the Clippers, the Mavs were only 6-of-30 from behind the three-point stripe for a frosty 20 percent. Forward Kristaps Porzingis said: “We had some decent looks. I felt like I rushed a couple. I think we all were kind of a little bit out of rhythm from long range.”