LOS ANGELES – Decades from now, millions of folks will probably still be talking about the night Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers surprising called a timeout very late in Monday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks so he could deliver a very special message.
Rivers wanted the Staples Center sellout crowd of 19,068 to do the honorable thing and stand up and give Mavs superstar forward Dirk Nowitzki one last thunderous standing ovation.
After he was issued the timeout, Rivers walked over to the scorer’s table, took the microphone and shouted: “Dirk! Now, let’s go! Let’s go! One of the greatest of all time. Dirk Nowitzki. We’ll certainly miss him.”
At the time, there were still 9.4 seconds remaining a game the Clippers ultimately won, 121-112. And as the crowd stood and furiously clapped and cheered following the unexpected command by Rivers, a sheepish Nowitzki was obviously emotional and taken aback at what had just transpired.
“First, I was like, ‘Why is Doc calling a timeout, what is he doing when we have only (9.4) seconds to go, what’s he up to?,’ ” Nowitzki rhetorically asked. “Then he grabbed the mic.
“I didn’t really understand much, but I’m really humbled, and that was an emotional moment and I really appreciate it.”
Nowitzki finished the game with 12 points and a season-high tying five rebounds while becoming the fourth player in NBA history to play at least 1,500 games. Meanwhile, Rivers said in a recent game against the Miami Heat, the Clippers didn’t give Dwyane Wade the right send-off, and he wasn’t going to let that happened in what may be Nowitzki’s final game against the Clippers.
“We had a (nine-point) lead (against the Mavs) and I had a timeout,” Rivers said. “Honestly, I didn’t plan it. I just felt like he deserved that.”
That touching moment overshadowed a game that saw rookie Luka Doncic register his fourth triple-double of the season as he finished the game with 28 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. The last Mavs player to collect four triple-doubles in a season was Michael Finley in 1999.
Because he had missed the previous two games with a sore right ankle, this was Doncic’s first game since the Mavs lost to Miami on Feb. 13 prior to the All-Star break.
“I was just happy to be back,” Doncic said. “I missed two games, and with the All-Star break, I couldn’t wait to get on the floor, so I was just happy.”
What Doncic wasn’t happy about was the career-high nine turnovers he committed, some of which were catastrophic.
“That was terrible, I was terrible today,” Doncic said. “That was all my fault. I had a lot of turnovers, so that can’t happen again.”
And why did it happen this time?
“Some of it was the pressure the Clippers put on him, some of it was just, they’re mistakes,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “A player like him that’s getting trapped every single night is going to be more prone to turnovers, so this is why we study film. We’ve got to show him ways to make simpler easy plays.
“At times it’s tough for him because he feels like he can thread any needle and throw the ball through one guy’s nose out of his rear end and hit a teammate. You just can’t do that in this league on a consistent basis, so that’s what teaching and learning is all about.”
In helping hand the Mavs (26-34) their fifth straight loss, Montrezl Harrell went on a dunking rampage and led the Clippers with a career-high 32 points, and Lou Williams added 21 points and 10 assists.
After the Mavs inched to within 116-110 of the Clippers with 2:16 left in the game, Harrell jammed home a dunk and Danilo Gallinari (20 points) buried a pair of free throws as the Clippers padded their lead to 120-110 with 58.2 seconds to go.
“He’s become a big impact player in this league,” Carlisle said of Harrell. “He’s elevated his game, really, month to month in the last two years in a big way, and they’ve done great work with him and we didn’t do a good enough job.
“When you have a guy like Williams out there and you’re running around trapping, the Harrell’s of the world are going to be even more effective.”
The Clippers rolled to a 29-22 lead after the first quarter, but the Mavs narrowed the gap to 63-57 at intermission. Despite 11 points and three assists from Doncic in the third quarter, the Clippers were able to carry a 91-88 lead into the final quarter.
It was a quarter that involved that unexpected surprising stoppage of play and heartfelt speech by Rivers.
“It was one of the greatest things I’ve seen,” Carlisle said. “I obviously had a couple of words with Doc and thanked him. I know there will be more moments similar to that, but this was an original.
“I’ve never seen something like this. That’s why Doc is one of the special people, one of the people I most respect in this game, a Hall of Famer. It was one of the real special moments that I’ve been a small part of, so it was great to see.”
NOTES: Besides the performances by Luka Doncic and Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Powell poured in a career-high 24 points, grabbed eight rebounds, collected two steals and blocked two shots against the Clippers, Tim Hardaway Jr. had 20 points and six rebounds, and Maxi Kleber scored 10 points after missing Saturday’s game in Utah with an illness. . .Mavs coach Rick Carlisle reminded the media that although Doncic has received a lot of attention this season, the rookie really doesn’t seek out or like that attention. “I haven’t seen and I wasn’t with Cleveland when LeBron James was drafted (No. 1 overall in 2003),” Carlisle said. “I don’t know what it was like when the bus would pull up at 2 in the morning. But this has been a zoo, but he’s not looking for the attention. He wants to be a great teammate, he wants to win games, and he wants to be a part of something bigger than himself.” . .Carlisle said the remainder of the season is critical for Doncic’s development. “It’s very important on a lot of levels,” he said. “Number one, it’s a chance to keep competing and getting better as teams adjust to him. We’re seeing more trapping of him in pick-and-rolls with the way our team is restructured, and he’s going to have to deal with those kinds of situations and a lot of defensive attention. And also, a really important thing is that he’s certainly a future leader of this team and this period from here to the end of the year is going to be about what that responsibility is about, both from a production standpoint, facilitating and helping your teammates get great shots and all the things that go along with it. I try to keep things simple, I talk to him very frequently about these things, and he has a lot of experience, even though he’s very young.” . .Dirk Nowitzki started his second straight game – his only two starts of the season – and played a season-high 26 minutes against the Clippers, eclipsing the 25 minutes he played Saturday at Utah. “As the season has gone on, he’s feeling better, he’s moving better, he’s continuing keeps getting better,” Carlisle said. “It’s hard coming off of missing the first seven or eight weeks of the season and not having a training camp to get your legs and all of that. But he’s getting to a better and better place, and we just keeps monitoring it and getting him out there with the right guys.”. .Guess who’s looking forward to free agency? Los Angeles Clippers forward Johnathan Motley. Formerly of the Mavs, Motley is in the second year of a two-way contract he signed with Dallas in the summer of 2017. “It’s my first (free agency),” Motley said. “So it’s going to be interesting to see what happens and hopefully some good things happen.”. .After Monday’s game, Luka Doncic gave boxing great Floyd Money” Mayweather an autographed jersey, and the two posed for a picture. Doncic said Mayweather told him: “He said, ‘You play like me.’ “. . .Dirk Nowitzki, who hasn’t said if this is his last season, couldn’t help but notice all the attention he’s receiving in all the arenas across the NBA this season. “They making the (retirement) decision for me, I guess,” Nowitzki said, jokingly, after Monday’s game. “We’ll see what the rest of the season brings. But (the receptions have) been great, really emotional in some of these buildings. The reception from the fans have been incredible, so much love for sure.”