The Los Angeles Clippers got the first-round matchup they seemingly wanted.
Through two games, the Dallas Mavericks are proving just how foolish that was.
Luka Doncic scored 39 points to lead the Mavericks to a 127-121 victory Tuesday for a 2-0 series lead that has only increased the spotlight on the Clippers and ratcheted up the pressure for a team desperate to win its first championship. Doncic and company picked apart the Los Angeles defense and shot 58.5% from the field, including 18-of-34 from 3-point range (52.9%).
The Clippers have lost five consecutive playoff games dating to last year's second round, where they blew a 3-1 series lead and lost to the Denver Nuggets. With the specter of that collapse looming over the entire 2020-21 regular season, the Clippers vowed things would be different in these playoffs.
Things are clearly not going as planned.
"I'm pretty sure everyone expected us to win this," said Paul George. "They're playing free and with confidence and I think we're giving them a little too much confidence. It's up to us to shut that down."
39 points for @luka7doncic.
2-0 lead for @dallasmavs.
Series shifts to Dallas on Friday at 9:30 PM ET on ESPN.. #NBAPlayoffspic.twitter.com/n51k893CU8
Kawhi Leonard poured in 41 points, including 30 in the first half, and George had 28 as the Clippers shot 53.6% from the field. However, they had no answer for Doncic, who finished 16-of-29 shooting with seven rebounds and seven assists. Leonard said defense will be key going forward.
"That's what we got to do, we got to get stops," Leonard said. "We got to make them miss shots. We got to play defense. Shooting 58%, 52% from 3 is just not going to cut it. … Too many easy baskets out there for Dallas."
Despite the deficit, the Clippers aren't panicking, even as the series shifts to Dallas for the next two games. Asked if there was any concern among the team, George bluntly said there wasn't.
"There is none," George said. "We got to rise to the occasion. Fact of the matter is if we don't, we're done for. There's no level of concern."
His coach agreed.
"I'm not concerned," said Clippers coach Ty Lue. "They won two games on our home floor and now we got to return the favor."
State of the series: Mavericks lead 2-0. Game 3 is Friday in Dallas (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
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