For the second consecutive season, the
Los Angeles Temecula Clippers have laid waste to the Dallas Mavericks in the opening round of the playoffs. Last year, during the unprecedented gauntlet that was the NBA Bubble, it was unsurprising. This postseason, however, their triumph has served as a statement to the rest of the league that the 2020-21 incarnation of the Clippers—now under the stewardship of LeBron James’ understudy, Ty Lue—aren’t the bumbling disappointments of the past.
At least not yet.
After falling behind 0-2 in their series against the Mavericks this year, many of us—myself included—falsely assumed the sky was falling and that it was a wrap for the Clippers. But with Kawhi Leonard playing out of his fucking mind, Paul George taking responsibility for his own shortcomings by consistently filling up the box score, and Lue adjusting on the fly—switching up defensive coverages and benching starters in favor of players like Luke Kennard and Terance Mann—the Clippers ultimately prevailed in Game 7 with a 126-111 rout.
With their win, the Clippers became the fifth team in league history to lose their first two games at home and rally back to still win their playoff series.
“It was a great win for us,” Lue said after keeping his streak of Game 7 wins (4-0) intact. “It showed a lot about our team.”
“We showed great resilience,” George said after dropping 22 points on Sunday. “They pushed us. They definitely got us war-ready. We hung in there, we played for one another, we played hard.”
In the loss, Luka Doncic erupted one last time with 46 points, 14 assists, and seven boards and finished the series with averages of 35.7 points, 7.9 boards, and 10.3 assists per game on 49 percent shooting from the floor. Sadly, Dallas didn’t get much help from anyone else on their roster as Doncic’s co-pilot, Kristaps Porzingis, has been getting roasted on Twitter for his lackluster play in the series.
Since Sunday’s loss, there have also been rumors that Porzingis is “frustrated” with his role and often feels like “an afterthought” in the offense. But despite his frustrations, the 25-year-old acknowledged that his poor play and continued lack of chemistry with Doncic is unacceptable—especially at a price tag of around $30 million a year.
“The game’s evolving,” he said. “The way I was playing in New York, a lot of post-ups, barely any teams do those kind of things anymore, so my game has to evolve and I have to find ways I can be effective.”
Aside from Porzingis’ struggles, the Mavericks also have to decide if they want to invest in unrestricted free agent Tim Hardaway Jr. for the foreseeable future. If Dallas has any intentions of making the leap into championship contention, this roster, as currently constructed, has proven itself incapable of getting the job done. The Clippers faced similar questions following their catastrophic playoff collapse last year, and it might be time for the Mavericks to swing for the fences with a major move.
“Game seven is the toughest game. You’ve got to give it everything,” Doncic said. “We’ve been in the playoffs twice since I’ve been there, lost both times. You get paid to win.”
That you do.
Next on the Clippers’ agenda is the No. 1-seeded Utah Jazz; who, unlike Dallas, have a blossoming superstar talent in Donovan Mitchell, noteworthy co-stars in Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley, and a treasure trove of complementary pieces in Bojan Bogdanović, Joe Ingles, and NBA Sixth Man of the Year, Jordan Clarkson.
Good luck with that.