NBA: Luka Doncic, Mavericks take chippy win over Clippers
NBA

NBA: Luka Doncic, Mavericks take chippy win over Clippers for lead

/ 02:57 PM April 27, 2024

Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic  NBA Los Angeles Clippers Nba Playoffs Mavericks vs Clippers

Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic (77) is fouled by Los Angeles Clippers’ Russell Westbrook, right, during the second half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series in Dallas, Friday, April 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

DALLAS — Luka Doncic called out to his coaches during a flurry of 3-pointers from James Harden.

The Mavericks superstar and NBA scoring champion wanted to defend the star guard of the Los Angeles Clippers.

It’s suddenly defense first in Dallas.

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READ: NBA: Luka Doncic shines as Mavericks sink Clippers

Doncic had 22 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, and the defensive-minded Mavericks had a chippy 101-90 victory over the Clippers on Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in their NBA Playoffs first-round series.

The Mavericks rode the same defense that gave them home-court advantage with a Game 2 victory in LA, and won in Dallas three years after losing all three first-round games on their floor in a seven-game loss to the Clippers. Game 4 is Sunday in Dallas.

“I think we all see that when we’re on the defensive side, there’s a different look in everybody’s eyes,” said rookie center Dereck Lively II, who had all 13 of his points in the first half as the Mavs got their lob game going with 10 dunks before the break. “It’s like being aggressive and being the aggressor even though they have the ball.”

Daniel Gafford, Lively’s tag-team partner as a dunker and rim protector, had an emphatic block of a dunk attempt by Paul George early in the fourth quarter while Dallas was taking control for good in a game with five technical fouls, a flagrant foul and two ejections.

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Harden scored 21 points for the Clippers, but just seven after halftime, while fellow stars George and Kawhi Leonard had little impact.

READ: NBA: Clippers beat Mavericks in Game 1 without Kawhi Leonard

Norman Powell also had 21, and Ivica Zubac had 19 points and eight rebounds. But the Clippers had 19 turnovers and the Mavericks had seven blocks — three of them from Gafford and two from Lively.

George dealt with foul trouble and finished with seven points, five rebounds, five assists — and five fouls.

Leonard never looked comfortable in his second game back after missing nine games with right knee inflammation and had nine points and nine rebounds.

“It just didn’t respond the way we wanted after the first game,” Leonard said about his surgically repaired knee. “But we’re going to get it right. Time will tell. We’re doing all the right things.”

Kyrie Irving picked up his fourth foul early in the second half before scoring 19 of his 21 points in the final 13-plus minutes, including eight in the final 1:18 of the third quarter. Doncic’s co-star was instrumental in Dallas rebuilding an 18-point lead that had been cut to six.

An already testy game reached a boiling point midway through the fourth quarter when Russell Westbrook slung Doncic around after fouling him.

Westbrook was called for a technical for that contact and for shoving P.J. Washington after Washington confronted him. Washington also was called for a tech during the sequence, and already had one from an earlier shoving match with Terance Mann.

Westbrook, who in the first half got a flagrant 1 foul for excessive contact when fouling Josh Green on a breakaway, and Washington were ejected.

Westbrook, who missed all seven shots and scored one point, drew the ire of the crowd one other time when he bowled over Doncic after Zubac was called for a foul as Doncic went up for a shot. Officials reviewed the play but ruled Westbrook’s contact incidental.

“We’ve got to channel our aggression in other ways,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “It’s getting chippy. I like the physicality. I like the tough possessions. I like all of that. But we’ve got to make sure we’re not getting the technical fouls, we’re not getting thrown out of the game, because everybody’s important.”

Doncic, who briefly left the court after limping off while grabbing his right knee in the first quarter, was just 7 of 25 from the field and 3 of 14 from 3-point range.

But Dallas held George and Westbrook to a combined 1 of 10 from deep, while Leonard didn’t even have a 3 attempt among just seven shots in 25 minutes.

“He’s trying to find his way back,” Lue said. “We’re just managing it. Just being smart, making sure we do it right by Kawhi and seeing how he feels and just kind of gauge it from there.”

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Harden scored 12 of his 14 first-half points with four 3-pointers in a three-minute span starting in the final second of the first quarter. He didn’t score again until the final minute of the third as the Clippers finished with 19 turnovers while also losing their composure.

“We’re all competing for each inch to find a way to win,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. “This series is going to be more mental as it goes on just because of the physicality. I thought the guys did a great job of protecting one another.”

TAGS: Dallas Mavericks

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