This turned out to be a teaching tool type of game for the Dallas Mavericks, a very important teaching tool that should help them in their quest to qualify for the playoffs.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined for 54 points, and the Los Angeles Clippers brought a physical and high intensity brand of basketball to the court and went on to a 114-99 victory over the Mavs on Tuesday night at American Airlines Center.
The loss snapped the Mavs’ five-game winning streak and marked the first time this season they’ve been held under 100 points. Also, the Clippers’ swarming defense limited the Mavs to a season-low 38 percent shooting and forced them into 20 turnovers.
With this setback in a game billed as a marquee matchup between the No. 3- and No. 4-seeded teams in the Western Conference, the Mavs fell to 11-6, while the Clippers won for the sixth consecutive time and padded their record to 13-5.
“They’re a championship team and they’re looking to win a championship (this season),” forward Kristaps Porzingis said. “They played like it was a playoff game.
“They played well. They came in ready. We got punched in the mouth tonight.”
The Mavs trailed 34-27 after the first quarter, 62-46 at the half and by as many as 24 points in the fourth quarter. George tallied 17 points in the first quarter and Leonard added 11 in the second quarter as they combined to keep the Mavs off-balance.
“They have a lot of weapons out there and they took away what we want to do best,” said guard Seth Curry, who had 13 points in 19 minutes. “At the same time we got a lot of shots that we wanted from different people, but we didn’t shoot as well. We had long stretches where we didn’t score and that hurt us.”
Leonard finished with 28 points and 11-of-21 shots, and George had 26 points on 8-of-21 baskets. In addition, Lou Williams came off the bench to pour in 21 points for the Clippers.
Meanwhile, Luka Doncic struggled through double- and triple-teams and was just 4-of-14 from the field and finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists. He also was 14-of-16 from the free throw line as the Clippers put him and his teammates through the type of physical test the Mavs have rarely seen this season.
“They played aggressively,” Porzingis said, “and they showed us that we have to learn how to play these games and we have to bring that same intensity.”
J.J. Barea came off the bench in the third quarter and gave the Mavs a spark with 10 points in 10 minutes. His performance helped the Mavs inch to within 100-86 with 7:28 left in the game.
“I thought Barea, in the second half, once again gave us some real pop out there,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He and Luka have a real good synergy when they play together. They have a lot of respect for each other and they play well off each other. Once again, J.J. was a plus in the game, so that good.”
What wasn’t good for the Mavs is that when they rallied to get the game to within 14 points and within reasonable reach, the Clippers went on a brisk 12-2 run to forge ahead 112-88 with three minutes remaining.
“We’re going to watch the film and we’re going to learn from the different stretches when we didn’t score, and just learn the level of intensity we need to play at to play against one of the best teams in the league,” Curry said. “We’re trying to get to the top of the league.
“And where they expect to be this year, we’re going to have to see teams like that going forward. So it’s a good learning experience for us.”
The Clippers got very physical with Doncic with center Ivica Zubac (7-0, 265) fouling the second-year point guard and sending him tumbling to the floor early in the first quarter. And JaMychal Green wound up hounding and swinging Doncic around late in the first quarter.
“This is NBA basketball – it’s physical every night,” Curry said. “At times we’ve been physical enough, sometimes we haven’t. It’s just the mentality of bringing that every night.
“I think this past week we’ve been able to play some teams that let us play a little more freer and do what we want to do. This was a veteran team that, like I said, took away our strength.”
Barea wound up with 12 points in 16 minutes and Dwight Powell contributed 10 points and three steals. But the Mavs missed way too many wide-open shots and had too many turnovers that led to 18 points for the Clippers.
“They played physical from the beginning,” said Porzingis, who had 15 points and 10 rebounds. “It’s no big deal. It’s a game we lost. We got an L, we got punched in the mouth a little bit, but we’ve got to learn from this one and on to the next one.”