Before arriving in Dallas for Game 3, the Dallas Mavericks had a 2-0 lead in the series. Last game a 3-0 lead almost seemed certain. That was until the Clippers fought back from a 19 point deficit. This allowed them to prevent themselves from going down 3-0.
The Clippers also carried all the momentum heading into this game. Coach Tyron Lue definitely saw an opportunity at this moment. Lue utilized it by starting a small lineup that had not started at any point this year. Going out with a lineup of Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr., Nicolas Batum, Paul George, and Reggie Jackson.
The Mavericks took advantage of the Clippers’ small lineup and went to Kristaps Porzingis early. This helped get Dallas an early 4-0 lead. However, that would be the last lead that the Mavericks would have. The Mavericks pushed to make a run after being down 12-6. Behind Boban Marjanovic’s big spark off the bench, Dallas was able to close the gap and make it 17-16. The Clippers then would go on a massive run behind the defensive intensity from their second lineup. Los Angeles closed the quarter on a 14-7 run. A last-second Jalen Brunson three stopped the bleeding. The final score at the end of the first quarter was 31-22.
Josh Richardson opened the second quarter up by hitting a 3 to close the gap to within 6. Although for the remainder of the quarter it would be all Los Angeles. Paul George quickly widened the lead for Los Angeles scoring 7 points in less than a minute. This would give the Clippers a 16 point lead.
After George checked out of the game it was Leonard’s turn to dominate. Leonard got back-to-back dunks assisted by Rajon Rondo which effectively kept the already quiet crowd silenced. Leonard surgically sliced through the Mavericks’ defense and got every basket he wanted. George and Leonard finished with a combined 35 points. They were also insanely efficient shooting a combined 73% from the field. The Clippers lead the Mavericks 61-45 at the half.
The start of the third quarter was very similar to the end of the second. Leonard attacked the basket and got to the line getting any shot he wanted against Dallas. The Mavericks switched Finney-Smith onto Leonard hoping to slow down his production. Leonard utilized his strength to have the advantage over Finney-Smith to get easy buckets towards the basket.
However, the Clippers did not take their foot off the gas in the third quarter. With large contributions from Batum and Morris Sr, they were able to have an 82-60 lead heading into the fourth. In the fourth quarter, Dallas experimented with many uncommon lineups. They did this in order to hopefully find a spark to force a comeback. Although, the Clippers remain firmly in control through the end.
Los Angeles did not pull their starters until the final four minutes of the quarter, already up 23 points. Kawhi Leonard finished with 29 points and 10 rebounds on 11-15 shooting. Paul George finished with 20 points and an efficient 3-6 from beyond the arc. The Clippers as a team shot 48% and 39% from three. This is compared to Dallas’ abysmal 34% from the field and 16% from the three. Luka Doncic finished with 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists.
Looking ahead to Game 5
Game 5 is massive for the series as it will show who breaks the tie. In order for the Clippers to be successful, they will need to protect their home court. Los Angeles has done a poor job of securing wins at home having gone 0-2 in Staples Center during this series. In order to win the series, they must find a way to win in Los Angeles. The best option is to remain with their small-ball lineup.
This lineup caused trouble for Dallas in the second half of Game 3 and for all of Game 4. Another large key for the Clippers to win is the consistent play from their stars. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard have had a great showing in the past two games. However, in order to be successful, they must show up big in Game 5.
Dallas is in need of new momentum. Head Coach Rick Carlisle will most likely make adjustments and tweak his lineup going into game 5. An advantage Carlisle can give his team is giving Marjanovic more minutes. His 12 points and 6 rebounds in only 15 minutes was one of Dallas’ only bright points from yesterday’s game. Another key aspect they must figure out is Luka Doncic’s efficiency from the line. Doncic is shooting 43% on the series. In order for Dallas to be successful and win Game 5, they must have a better performance from their bright young star.
Game 5 will be in Los Angeles on Wednesday, June 2 at 7:00 pm PST.