Wednesday , May 22 2024

5 twists along the way in the Mavericks’ failed Game 4 comeback against the Clippers, 116-111

5 twists along the way in the Mavericks’ failed Game 4 comeback against the Clippers, 116-111

The loss was dramatic, but the Mavericks put that drama on themselves and wasted a second-straight opportunity against a version of the Clippers without Kawhi Leonard.

The Dallas Mavericks looked for long stretches of Sunday’s second half like they were on their way to a historic comeback win, one that would be invoked for years to come in the annals of Mavericks playoff lore. But the Mavs wilted down the stretch in a 116-111 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at American Airlines Center that evened up the first-round playoff series at two games apiece.

Down 31 points in the second quarter, Dallas nearly came all the way back, but the Clippers found just enough in the tank down the stretch to hold the Mavericks off.

James Harden turned back the hands of time and scored 33 points (15 in the fourth quarter) on 12-of-17 shooting from the field, seven rebounds and six assists. Paul George scored 26 of his 33 points in the first half and dished eight more assists in the series tying win.

Kyrie Irving flipped the switch to “incredible mode” after a miserable first quarter and keyed the Mavs comeback attempt over the final two and a half quarters of the game. He finished with 40 points and seven boards. Luka Dončić had 29 points, 10 rebounds and 10 dimes, though he didn’t make his first 3-pointer until the fourth quarter.

Out of a timeout down 19-10 with just under four minutes left in the first, Dante Exum dribbled the ball seven times while looking for Irving, who never came open, and it became an empty possession when Exum’s contested jumper clanged off the rim harmlessly. This was the perfect summation of the Dallas effort in the first quarter — an empty, futile exercise.

Los Angeles extended its run to 19-2 on George’s jumper over Exum with 2:45 left in the first, prompting Kidd to bring Dončić back in earlier than normal down 24-10. But things really started to crumble in the final two minutes of the first.

Norman Powell stroked in a 3-pointer on his first possession in the ballgame before Terence Mann found George in secondary transition for a wide open 3-pointer in rhythm with 1:26 left in the opening frame. It put the Clippers up 30-14, and the next signs of life from the home team would be the Mavericks’ first.

Powell’s contested 3-ball from the left wing in P.J. Washington’s face at the first-quarter buzzer gave the Clippers a 39-16 lead at the end of one. The Mavs shot an atrocious 4-of-20 from the field as a team in the first and 0-for-7 from beyond the arc. The slow start also plagued the Mavericks in Game 1, when they started 0-of-8 from 3-point land before things got even worse in the second quarter.

The Mavericks were at least pan-seared at this point. If anything, detrimental happened early in the second, Dallas would be done all the way through.

George scored 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range in the first quarter. He singlehandedly scored as many points as the Mavs did in the first.

Then he gave way to Harden in the second. When Harden pulled his patented step-back with Dončić defending and splashed home the shot that extended the Clipper lead to a daunting 55-24 midway through the second, it felt like we had time-traveled back to his prime 10 years ago.

Harden had gathered 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting and a perfect 4-of-4 from 3-point land in the first half. George stayed hot in the meantime and went into halftime with 26 points to lead all scorers after the Dallas defense held him to just seven points in Game 3.

Without the injured Kawhi Leonard (knee), Harden and George came into Game 4 with an assertiveness that set the tone for the Clippers, and the Mavericks never found the will or the jump shot to match it. Dallas expended a ton of energy in the last six minutes of the first half, all in an effort to just stay within 20 points of the lead.

Irving scored 16 points of his own in the second quarter, shooting a perfect 5-for-5 from the field and 3-for-3 from distance. He was the only reason the Mavs were able to whittle what was once a 31-point Clipper lead midway through the second down to 17 points, 66-49, at the half.

He piled up all 16 of those points in the final 5:32 of the first half, when he scored or assisted on 23 of the Mavericks’ last 25 points of the second quarter.





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