The Mavericks are behind 1-0 in the first-round series against the Clippers.
Relax. It’s not the end of the world.
Yes, the Mavericks have lost four times to the Clips this season without a victory, going back to the regular season. And, yes, technically the Mavericks are on their first three-game losing streak of the season. They dropped the last two seeding games.
The Mavericks are too good not to extend this series.
But that doesn’t change the fact that Game 1 was a missed opportunity. Here, we’ll take a look back at our top takeaways from the 118-110 LA win in the playoff opener.
Shoot!!! In the lead-up to Game 1, coach Rick Carlisle almost offered as an afterthought what one of the major keys to this series would be. “We’re obviously going to have to make our share of shots,” he said. You’re not going to beat one of the best defensive teams in the league without working to get good shots – and more importantly, making them when you do. In the first half, they shot 57 percent, including that same percentage from 3-point range (12-of-21). In the second half, they were just 3-of-22 from beyond the arc (13.6 percent). It’s no wonder they got outscored 52-41. The Mavericks have to work the ball and get better shots than they did in the second half. They know the Clippers’ defense is going to scramble and help and smother Luka Dončić when possible. They just have to be patient . . . and run like crazy when the opportunity presents itself. Fast-break points are about as easy as it’s going to get against the Clips.
Same old situation: A yearlong trend kept going in Game 1. The third quarter still tortures them like a screaming cat outside your window at 4 a.m. torments your good night’s sleep. They were outscored 21-13 on Monday in the third period and it was a worse 12 minutes than that because Kristaps Porzingis got ejected with 9:10 remaining with his second technical foul. The third quarter letdowns have been common, but there’s no consistent pattern. For the season, the Mavericks are outscoring opponents in the third by more than two points. However, in the nine games they’ve played in the bubble, the opponents own a 1.9-point advantage.
Second that emotion: The Mavericks knew coming into Game 1 that the Clippers were going to play rough. Their physical style is well documented and the Mavericks are not regarded as a brutish team, although they do have a point guard who can handle (and dish out) physical play. But the heat of the moment got to Kristaps Porzingis on two occasions. First, he air-punched at a referee and the rulebook leaves no room for debate on that. It’s a technical foul. The second technical came when Porzingis came to the aid of Dončić. At one point, Marcus Morris had his hand on Porzingis’ neck, a piece of evidence the Mavericks no doubt turned in to the NBA in their overnight report. Regardless, it was a painful reminder that you can’t let the emotions get the better of you when the stakes are this high.
Fuhgettaboutit: One of the Mavericks’ best strengths this season has been their ability to put tough losses behind them. That said, they are technically riding their first three-game losing streak of the season. They lost the final two seeding games and now are behind 1-0 to the Clips. Resiliency will never be more important than in Game 2 on Wednesday night. What will help to that end will be limiting turnovers. Luka had 11 of the Mavericks’ 22 miscues. Can’t give the ball away like that against a high-quality team and survive.
Listen to veteran voices: The Mavericks have four players who no longer are playoff newbies. Dončić, Porzingis, Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith were playing their first NBA postseason games and they had mixed results. Utlimately, it was bad results with the loss. But they did a lot of positive things that must be repeated in Game 2. “We had a ton of confidence coming into the game,” said Seth Curry. “And we still have a lot of confidence.” No reason why they shouldn’t. They took the No. 2-seeded Clippers into the fourth quarter in a back-and-forth game – and without their second-best player on the court for almost all of the second half. The Mavericks got proof that they can slug it out with the Clippers. Now they just have to tie up some loose ends and throw a silver-bullet effort at LA in Game 2.