After four close encounters between the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks, the favorite finally found a split on Tuesday. The Clippers absolutely decimated the Mavericks, 154-111 taking the lead 3-2 in the series. More importantly, they put many of their struggling players back on track. Paul George and Montrezl Harrell combined for 56 points, and the team as a whole scored 22 from 3 points not only to take the lead in the series but to send a statement to the underdog Mavericks that despite the series so far, these teams have not they are not even close.
The Mavericks, meanwhile, must return to the drawing board after one of the worst losses of the season. Nothing worked in defense in Game 5. The attack fought for almost as long. They now have two days to create a counter. If they can’t, their season will end on Thursday with a defeat in Game 6.
Paul George committed one of the deadly sins of the sport when he gave himself “Playoff P” as a nickname. It’s one thing to fight in the postseason, but it’s another when you’ve done everything to tell the world how dominant you are there. The beats flowed like wine when he shot 10 for 47 from the field in the 2-4 games of the Clippers’ first-round series against the Dallas Mavericks. Well, nobody laughs now.
George left the game with 35 points in the fourth quarter, the Clippers leading by 32. He shot 12 for 18 from the field and 4 for 8 with 3 points. This is what the Clippers need George to be offensive. It will not execute the system but must execute the hits it generates. He is a fluid player who has struggled to find a certain rhythm in the last three games. With the Clippers firing at full blast and the Mavericks completely ill-equipped to defend them, George should be able to bring some momentum into round two.
Few players can disappoint with a performance of 22 points, eight rebounds, and four assists, but this is the bar Luka Doncic has set for this series. More distressing, he only fired 6 of the 17 shots from the field. He missed five free throws and five of his six three-point attempts. The Clippers are responsible to some extent. They caught him pick-and-roll far more aggressively than they did at the start of the series after his gearbox failed miserably.
But physically, Doncic wasn’t close to 100 percent. He played with a sprained left ankle in Game 4 and it was wonderful to orchestrate an upset during overtime, but whether he was just tired of playing made the injury worse, he spent the night wincing for not being able to keep up . with the stellar defense of the Clippers. The Mavericks never expected to win this series, especially with Kristaps Porzingis wasting so much time. But after four games, they had a real chance to advance. However, if that’s what Doncic looks like, that opportunity is gone. It’s not healthy enough to beat the Clippers.
The raw stats are impressive, but they don’t tell the whole story. Montrezl Harrell was not a major factor in this series. The Clippers were beaten by 46 points in their minutes during their first four games. As much as they like 19 points and 11 rebounds, they are much more concerned about their 34-point differential.
Harrell was barely put up for playoff basketball when this series began. He still has room to grow, but physically the difference has been marked. He is able to play the kind of stress games that define his game as much as his attack. The Clippers can get by offensively without Harrell. But the emotional boost he provided with his energy was irreplaceable. It was unmistakably present in Game 5 and that should terrify the Western Conference.