LOS ANGELES – Different Los Angeles opponents, different decades, different circumstances – but same arena, same atmosphere, same result.
A decade after beating the Lakers twice at Staples Center to open the 2011 Western Conference semifinals, the new-age young Mavericks swept the first two games of their first-round series here against the other Los Angeles team. Angeles, the Clippers.
Dallas’ 127-121 win on Tuesday night gave it an impressive 2-0 lead as this best-seven series moves to American Airlines Center for Games 3 (Friday) and 4 (Sunday).
In NBA playoff history, teams that take a 2-0 lead in the Top Seven series have won 93.7% (254-17) of the time. One of the losses was against the Mavericks in the 2006 NBA Finals. Those 2011 Mavericks, though? They swept away the Lakers and won the NBA Championship.
It’s a different generation of Mavericks, however, and as the last buzzer sounded, owner Mark Cuban gave every Maverick in sight big hugs.
There were plenty of kudos to go around, starting with Luka Doncic (39 points), Tim Hardaway Jr. (28 points) and Kristaps Porzingis (20).
“The mentality was to go out on the court and play aggressively, have fun and that’s it,” said Doncic, who shot 16 of 29 from the field and added seven rebounds and seven assists. “This is how our mentality is.”
Coach Rick Carlisle told us after the Mavericks ‘113-103 win in Game 1 that there would be no slowdown in Game 2 just because Dallas stole the field advantage: “C’ is a business trip. We are here to play both of these games at the highest level possible. “
Nine months after falling to the Clippers in six games in the Orlando Bubble in the first round of last season, fifth-seeded Dallas has fourth-seeded Los Angeles on the ropes. The Clippers lost 41 points to Kawhi Leonard and 28 to Paul George on Tuesday.
“Just being able to have two on the road is great,” said Hardaway, who for the series is shooting 17 of 26 from the field, including 11 of 17 on 3 points. “But we know we have more to do, more work to do, and a bit of cleaning up on both ends of the floor.”
Dallas’ 58% shot was the fourth-highest in a playoff game in franchise history. When a team on an offensive pitch like that, there isn’t much, even two stars like Leonard and George can do to overcome it.
And after a porous first half for both teams, the Dallas defense stiffened in the third quarter, keeping the Clippers 36 percent shooting while edging Los Angeles 30-19.
“Being able to keep them 19 in the third quarter gave us an opportunity to win the game,” said Carlisle. “Luka and KP on the defensive end – you can talk about all the spectacular Luka stuff offensively. KP did some really good things offensively, but these two guys defensively made the difference in the third quarter. When these two guys play that way on the defensive end, it takes our defense to another level.
The first half was a wild offense from both teams, as Dallas shot 67% from the field against 63% of the Clippers.
Leonard’s 30 points in the first half and Doncic’s 23 were career highs for both players, although in Doncic’s case his playoff career had barely started.
In eight playoff games, he amassed 256 points, 76 rebounds and 70 assists. According to Elias Sports, he is the first player in NBA history to record at least 250 points, 70 rebounds and 70 assists in his first eight games.
His first-half explosion marked the sixth time in eight playoff games, all against the Clippers, in which he scored at least 20 points.
Surprisingly, the Mavericks scored 71 points in the first half even though they didn’t attempt their first free throw until 5:40 a.m. in the second quarter.
And when the Mavericks finally did get some free throws, they couldn’t do them – missing 6 of their first 9; and 11 of their top 20.
The Mavericks knew the Clippers would come out with extra intensity, and Los Angeles did, but it was Dallas who landed the first shots, taking a 7-2, 20-13, 31-23 lead.
Maxi Kleber, listed as questionable before the game with continued Achilles pain on the right, scored 12 points in the first quarter on 5 out of 5 shots. The early explosion, at 9:07 am on the court, tied the top of the playoffs Kleber’s previous matches for an entire game, not to mention the quarterback.
Leonard, clearly sensing the game was pulling away from Los Angeles, scored 18 points in the first quarter, almost single-handedly pulling the Clippers down to 35-33 after a quarter.
After that, the teams traded baskets, with little defensive resistance on either side.
The Clippers made 9 of their first 10 shots in the second quarter; Dallas made 10 of its first 11.
It was entertaining things, especially the periods in which Doncic (14 points in the second quarter) and Porzingis (8) traded baskets with star duo Clipper of Leonard (12 points in the second quarter) and George (nine). .
At halftime he was 73-71 Clippers and everyone looked exhausted – players, fans, journalists.
Doncic, above all looked gassed, then he started the third quarter with a 3-point ball, two missed free throws and another 3 that barely scratched the rim.
It turns out he was just preparing the Clippers for his second-half assault.
Now, two days away from Friday’s Game 3, the Clippers are going to scoff a lot from the national media after appearing to deliberately lose their last two games, against Oklahoma City and Houston, in order to avoid half the Lakers playoffs. . support.
And, in other words, to take on the Mavericks on purpose. Did that give Dallas extra motivation in those first two games?
“I didn’t even know they were doing this until someone told me in the first game,” Doncic said. “So not really, no.
“If you want to win a championship, at the end of the day you have to win against everyone. So I don’t think that makes a big statement. We’re just going to play there. “
Find more Mavericks reporting from The Dallas Morning News here.