LOS ANGELES — The Mavericks have dominated the season series with the Clippers. You just wouldn’t know it by the final scores of their first three meetings.
For the fourth time this season, the Mavs led the Clippers for a majority of the game. For the first time this season, however, the Mavs finally hung onto a double-digit fourth-quarter lead, defeating the Clippers 113-107 to remain in the thick of the competitive race for the West’s seven and eight seeds.
Yet again, the game’s final minutes between these two weren’t without drama. Dallas built a 12-point lead with 2:50 remaining, but it didn’t last. In less than 90 seconds, Los Angeles clamped down defensively, rallied and erased the deficit to two. It was deja vu all over again.
But back-to-back missed 3-pointers — one by J.J. Redick, who made his long-awaited return, and the other by Darren Collison — with under a minute left prevented them from taking the lead, and a questionable foul call on Blake Griffin sent Dirk Nowitzki to the line to seal the game.
Clippers look to continue momentum in the final stretch of games READ MORE
"We ran out of miracles," coach Doc Rivers said post-game. "Let’s be honest, [the Mavs] believe all three games they could’ve won and maybe even should’ve won…They’re playing for their lives."
The Clippers, who comfortably sit in the third seed, simply lacked the same sense of urgency. They also wasted Griffin’s fourth triple double of his career (25 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists) and DeAndre Jordan’s third 20-point game of the season (21 points, 15 rebounds).
"I didn’t think anybody played super tonight on our team," Rivers said. "I thought a lot of our shots were short. I thought defensively we very poor tonight from the 3-point line and just our overall defense. Give Dallas credit. I thought they did a lot of good things."
Here are five takeaways from tonight’s game:
Good ol’ Western shootout
This would be a really fun playoff series. Whenever these teams meet up there are offensive fireworks. Dallas is an offensive-minded ball club — they rank 3rd in offensive efficiency and 22nd in defensive efficiency — that wants to turn every game into a shootout to negate their defensive shortcomings. The Clippers fall into the trap, and madness ensues. Among teams L.A. has played three or more times, they score the most against the Mavs per 100 possessions (117.8).
J.J. Redick returns; Jamal Crawford, Danny Granger likely out until playoffs READ MORE
Before the game, Rivers said he wanted to limit Redick to 20-25 minutes. Redick ended up playing 24 minutes, including crunch time. His shot looked a little rusty (12 points, 3-of-10 FGs), and he clearly needs to readjust to the NBA’s pace. But boy, he moved well off the ball and played solid defense. If L.A. can reintegrate him soundly and get Jamal Crawford and Danny Granger back in proper form, they have to considered on the same level as the Spurs and Thunder.
Lacking their legs
Rivers rarely makes excuses, but he acknowledged that the Clippers looked tired and worn in their last two games. They were able to complete their comeback against the Suns on Wednesday, but the same lack of energy persisted in both games. Despite their horrid 3-point defense — the Mavs were 14-of-29 (48.3 percent) from deep — the Clippers actually lead the league in defending opponent 3-point shooting, so tonight’s performance should be considered more of a blip than anything.
DeAndre Jordan has cracked the code of Dallas’ defense. He’s averaging 17.3 points against them, his highest against any opponent. The Mavs are undersized inside, allowing the third-highest opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area, and constantly switch on the perimeter which causes constant breakdowns. Jordan takes advantage of these gaps by flying in for lobs, crashing the glass for tip-ins and putbacks, and/or drawing fouls.
The weak-side dilemma
While Dallas unlikely to move up to the six seed and face the Clippers in the first round, the way L.A. defended Dirk Nowitzki — or didn’t defend him — could be a problem against other elite scorers/shooters like Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. Because of the nature of their strong-side defense, the Clippers are constantly rotating, which can leave weak-side shooters open. If that guy happens to be a superstar with automatic range, watch out. The Clippers lost Nowitzki far too often, and will need to address this issue in the playoffs.