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Clippers vs. Mavericks: 3 trends to watch in their NBA playoff series

first_imgLAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — On the first night of the NBA playoffs, the Clippers took care of business.In a wild 118-110 win over the Dallas Mavericks, the Clippers were able to withstand Luka Doncic’s 42-point playoff debut, in part thanks to a controversial call that drew near-universal criticism.But what are the storylines to follow as the series unfolds? What might apply to the future games? A quick look at three trends to watch:Under the skinIt was a whistle that drew the ire of the Mavericks and the NBA world: Kristaps Porzingis stepped in to a fracas between Marcus Morris and Doncic, and received a technical foul for escalating the conflict. It’s a guideline that is explicitly spelled out in the rule book, but even Morris thought it was a bit much. For Lakers’ LeBron James, Jacob Blake’s shooting is bigger issue than a big Game 4 victory “I didn’t think it was enough to get technical fouls,” he said. “I wish that Porzingis played because it’s playoffs, man. Nobody should get thrown out in the playoffs.”Doc Rivers and the Clippers coaching staff probably didn’t cry too much about it. Especially in a close game.But the incident illustrates an important experience disparity between the Clippers and the Mavericks: Porzingis is 25 and Doncic is 21. While both have playoff experience in other leagues, they’ve never been in the NBA playoffs before, where every possession matters. Minor dust-ups that aren’t a big deal in the regular season can end up being costly.The Clippers, on the other hand, are full of vets not afraid to get in a scrap, including Morris, Montrezl Harrell, Joakim Noah and instigator-in-chief Patrick Beverley. They provoke, play physically and understand getting emotional reactions out of their opponents can work to their advantage.“That’s what they do,” Porzingis said. “Not their main guys but some of their other guys, that’s their job, that’s part of their game. And we can’t fall into that.” Game 4 photos: Luka Doncic, Mavs shock Clippers in overtime Clippers hope they can play to their capabilities, quell Mavericks’ momentum What the Clippers are saying the day after Luka Doncic’s game-winner tied series, 2-2 center_img It’s not an every-game closing look, but it’s a strong one to have in pocket. Trading for Morris is paying off in a big way already.“The way Marcus played tonight, being able to switch on both defenders, being able to score rebounding, he just did a little bit of everything for us,” George said. Lesson learned? Porzingis said he wouldn’t fall for the bait again. But is he the one that might get hooked next?On the play in which Porzingis got tossed, Doncic was the one who approached Morris, not the other way around – it was clear throughout the night from his heightened intensity that emotions were welling up for him. By the final possessions, Doncic looked completely wiped. It’s going to have to be something he watches out for in future games.Defending LukaThe Clippers saw history made against them, but were also close to making history themselves: No player has ever scored more than Doncic’s 42 points in his postseason debut. But his 11 turnovers were one away from tying James Harden for the most in a playoff game.How exactly does one assess that performance? A mixed review.“I thought we guarded him pretty well,” Rivers said. “I thought what we did poorly, what shows his greatness, is every time we made a mistake on the weak side, he found that guy and that guy made a shot.”Doncic may just be a second-year player, but as a playmaker, he’s a surgeon. He can muscle his way inside and score, as he showed last night. But when the Clippers defense collapsed on him, he expertly picked apart backside openings. Mavericks guards Seth Curry and Tim Hardaway Jr. started a little hotter than they finished, but they did a lot of damage. Clippers like Beverley and Reggie Jackson got caught ball-watching on Doncic as the guys they were guarding either hit backside threes or cut in to take pocket passes.Early in the game, the Clippers had success smothering Doncic with selective double teams. But Doncic adjusted, giving up just four of his turnovers in the second half. The Clippers want to limit his playmaking – they’ll take the stepbacks and contested looks in midrange.“I didn’t mind his basket attacks,” Rivers said. “I didn’t mind his threes. I mind our help so he could get the assists. I’ll give up the points to him, I just don’t want to give up the points and the assists. I think we allowed him to have both tonight.”Going small with Marcus MorrisThe Clippers benefited from Porzingis’ absence in crunch time, if only because it gave a good look at their small lineup, which gave them the edge in winning time.The Clippers trotted out Morris at five alongside Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, plus Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley. For five minutes, that lineup outscored the Mavericks by seven in a critical fourth-quarter stretch. The Clippers’ best lineup by plus-minus was the one that started the game thanks to a crushing 10-0 opening run, but the small look was one that offered scoring, defense, and five 3-point shooters.It’s a variation on a lineup the Clippers have used at other times this year with Harrell in for Morris, a group that has a plus-14 net rating in the scant minutes they’ve been on the floor together. While the Clippers have played extremely well with Zubac on the floor this year, a switchable lineup has a ton of value depending on matchups. Harrell has been out of pocket for nearly a month, so Morris might assume the closing role depending on when Trezz can get his conditioning up.Related Articles Clippers’ Paul George: ‘If I make shots, this series could be a little different’ Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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