The unexpected reared its ugly head in Game 7 on Sunday afternoon.
How else can you explain the Mavericks getting beaten by the Mann?
Or Luke being greater than Luka, at least for stretches when the game tilted in the direction of the Los Angeles Clippers?
A couple of forgotten, or at least unanticipated Clippers did just enough to augment Kawhi Leonard’s greatness and end a Mavericks’ season that had so many oddities that maybe it was fitting this was the way it should end.
A global pandemic shelved half their team at one point or another. A Texas blizzard shut them down for more than a week. They had too many losses to teams they expected to beat.
And, finally, Terance Mann and Luke Kennard got the better of them.
That pair led a major performance from the Clippers’ reserves, especially when a five-point Mavericks’ lead was snuffed in the final seven minutes of the third quarter, when the Clippers went ahead 100-85 going into the fourth.
“Their bench stepped up and had a great game,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “In the first half, Rondo hit a three, then Mann hit two threes. And Kennard hit a couple in the second half. When role players step up like that, those are difference-making situations. Their guys did a good job. We just didn’t have a great day overall.”
Mann had 13 points and Kennard had 11. Mann played sparingly in the first five games before taking on a bigger role. Kennard hadn’t played at all in the first four games, save for some mop-up time in the Game 4 blowout.
“They got 24 points and they haven’t been scoring that much this series,” said Dorian Finney-Smith. “It’s kind of tough. They did a good job of being ready. Hats off to them.”
Mann, a second-year swingman out of Florida State, said that he had confidence that he was ready for an upgraded role from early in the series when he was not in the rotation.
“I believed in myself, so definitely could I imagine it,” Mann said. “It feels good just to be out there playing my game in a big game like this in a tough environment.”
Mann added that his team learned a lot about itself against the Mavericks.
“It can help us tremendously,” he said of the 4-3 series victory. “As a team, we’re getting better still, you know, game-by-game. This series opened our eyes to certain things we need to get better at. Yeah, I think it will definitely help us. We definitely got better as a team this series.”
The Mavericks, meanwhile, had a mixed bag of results from their bench in Games 1 through 6, although Carlisle saw more good than bad.
He pointed to the performance in Game 6, when the reserves outscored the Clippers’ backups 15-4, but more importantly how they held the fort for three-plus minutes early in the second quarter when Luka Dončić was getting a quick breather on the bench.
Again in the second half, the group did a respectable job of not letting the Clippers get away from them.
“We were able to get Luka four minutes of rest during each of those stretches,” Carlisle said. “In the first stretch, I think we ran the lead up to seven. In the second, we had opportunities that we didn’t cash in on, but we still scored and were doing some good things.”
Game 7 was a different story. In the first half Sunday, the Mavericks’ reserves were outscored 19-4 in the first half and when Luka went to the bench for his customary rest, the Mavericks were outscored 8-2.
For the game, the Mavericks’ bench was outscored 27-6.
From downtown: Before the game – actually before the last three games – Clippers’ coach Tyronn Lue lamented that his team had yet to have one of those incredible shooting nights that helped them lead the NBA in 3-point shooting in the regular season.
They got it on Sunday.
The Clippers hit 20-of-43 from beyond the arc as eight different LA players hit at least one shot from downtown.
“Their hot shooting from three was probably the story of the game,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We didn’t have a great day shooting the ball. I thought we competed very well. We just didn’t play as well as we needed to.”
Money matters: The pool for the 2021 playoffs was $20,821,479.
Every team that makes the postseason gets a share of that pot. Obviously, the further you advance, the more money players on those teams earn.
The Mavericks got $198,981 for having the fifth-best record in the Western Conference.
They also received $310,745 for reaching the first round of the playoffs for a total of $509,726.
Had they reached the Western Conference semifinals, it would have been worth an additional $369,746.
When a team’s season is done, the players elect how to disperse the total in their respective playoff pool. Most teams give every player an equal share.
If the Mavericks cut their pool into 17 shares, each player would get about $29,984.