Clips drop to fourth following a loss to the Mavs, but get right back to work Wednesday vs. Hornets.
By MICHAEL MARTINEZ FS West
Chris Paul did everything in his power to push the
Clippers across the finish line Tuesday night in Dallas. He played on a sore knee, made baskets in bunches, even forced a critical turnover in overtime.
It wasn’t enough.
The Clippers’ 109-102 loss to the Mavericks at American Airlines Center turned out badly for both
Los Angeles teams.
It dropped the Clippers from third place to fourth in the Western Conference, a half game behind the Denver Nuggets, although both teams are even in the loss column. It also helped the Mavericks, who are 22-13 in their past 35 games, close to within one game of the Lakers for the eighth and last playoff spot. The Mavs and Utah are tied for ninth position with 35-36 records.
Dallas has endured its struggles this season, especially against the top teams in the conference, going 1-13 against San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Denver, Memphis and the Clippers. But Tuesday’s victory brought them to within one game of .500 and left them with a 10-4 record in March.
The loss marked a bad start to a four-game trip for the Clippers, who visit New Orleans on Wednesday night, get one day off, then play another back-to-back at San Antonio and Houston.
Paul didn’t consider the possibility of anything less than a perfect trip, insisting on Monday that even a 3-1 record would be unacceptable.
“If somebody says that they’re trippin’ because every trip we go on we’re trying to go 4-0,” he said. “It all starts in Dallas.”
He tried his best, scoring a season-high 33 points on 12-of-15 shooting and making the Clippers’ last 10 points of the fourth quarter. But after his jumper to start overtime put his team in front 99-97, the Mavs went on a 10-1 run and the Clippers missed eight of their last nine shots.
“Paul is so good, but we just tried to get the ball out of his hands and make the other guys beat us,” said Dirk Nowitski, who led Dallas with 33, including 8 of its 12 points in overtime.
Paul forced a key turnover with 30.4 seconds remaining when he poked the dribble from Vince Carter and the Mavs leading 103-100. Carter touched the ball before it went out of bounds, giving the Clippers a chance to tie.
But Matt Barnes threw up an air ball on a three-point shot, then fouled Nowitzki, who made both foul shots for a five-point lead.
The Clippers were both spectacular and horrendous from long-distance, making 10 of their first 22 three-point attempts, then missing their final 11 tries. Barnes was 2 for 8,
Jamal Crawford 0 for 4.
The Clippers actually could have won the game in the final seconds after the Mavs’ O.J. Mayo made a jump shot with nine-tenths of a second left to tie the game 97-97. A questionable offensive call on
Blake Griffin, however, sent it to the extra period.
Griffin caught a length-of-the-court inbounds pass from Barnes under the Clippers’ basket and somehow flipped the ball in as he fell to the floor. But officials called him for a push on Nowitzki, negating what would have been the winning shot.
“I have to look at it, but that wasn’t the difference,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “It would have been great, but we have to execute better. We’ve got to get some stops when we have to, but they made some tough shots and we weren’t able to convert a couple of plays down the stretch.”
Griffin scored 14 points and went an inexplicably long stretch without a basket, from the 7-minute mark of the first quarter until overtime.
That left it to Paul, who tried to carry the Clippers to the victory. But he didn’t have quite enough.