The Dallas Mavericks finally found success against the Los Angeles Clippers and now aim to take a 2-1 series lead when the teams square off Friday in their Western Conference first-round playoff series near Orlando.
Dallas was 0-4 against the Clippers this season before outplaying Los Angeles in Game 2 on Wednesday, taking a wire-to-wire, 127-114 victory.
Instead of a possible Clippers blowout in the series, the matchup is tied after two games and the seventh-seeded Mavericks are feeling an extra dose of confidence following their first postseason triumph since 2016.
“We took a step in the right direction,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle told reporters. “It’s important to feel what winning feels like, but we’re also up against the human nature curve, which is always tough after you win a playoff game. Even in a situation like this where there’s no fans in the building, you get an exuberant feeling, and you can’t let human nature get the best of you.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us. It’s now a five-game series.”
Second-seeded Los Angeles is viewed as a possible NBA Finals participant, but the Clippers weren’t looking like one in Game 2.
Los Angeles committed 15 turnovers and was unable to take advantage of Mavericks star Luka Doncic being limited to 28 minutes due to foul trouble.
Dallas backups Trey Burke (16 points), Seth Curry (15) and Boban Marjanovic (13) picked up the slack by combining for 44 points on 19-of-28 shooting.
“I just think they’re playing well,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of the Mavericks. “Honestly, they’re playing better than us right now.
“They had such a great rhythm against us. Every single guy on their team had confidence with the basketball. They were the more physical team. They played harder. They attacked us. We didn’t respond well.”
Kawhi Leonard recorded 35 points and 10 rebounds and Lou Williams scored 23 points off the bench for Los Angeles. But Paul George shot just 4-for-17 while scoring 14 points, and he said he wasn’t surprised by Dallas’ superior showing.
“We expect a tough matchup,” George told reporters. “We expect a tough challenge, but the good thing about it is we’re up for the challenge.”
Rivers will expect his club to play tougher defense and move the ball better in Game 3. He was disappointed that his starting five combined for seven assists on Wednesday.
“That’s not how we’ve played all year,” Rivers said. “If we play like that, we can’t win.”
Meanwhile, Doncic is enjoying his first foray into the playoffs with 70 points in the series. He set an NBA record with 42 points in his postseason debut and followed up with 28 in the Game 2 win.
Only Hall of Famer George Mikan (75 in 1949) scored more points in his first two playoff games than Doncic.
Not surprisingly, Doncic was more interested in discussing the series than his individual accolades.
“We’ve just got three left,” Doncic said, referencing how many more wins Dallas needs to spring the upset. “I think we can fight with them. Any series we go in, we’re going to believe we can win, for sure. If you don’t believe it, you’re not supposed to be here. You’ve got to believe it.”
Dallas big man Kristaps Porzingis added 23 points as he bounced back from his Game 1 ejection. He also played through right knee soreness.
“We knew after the first game that we were right there and we could compete with probably one of the favorites to win it all,” Porzingis told reporters.
The Clippers list point guard Patrick Beverley (calf) as doubtful. He missed Game 2.
–Field Level Media