The odds have turned significantly in favor of the Dallas Mavericks heading into Game 3 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series against the visiting Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.
The Mavericks won the first two games of the best-of-seven series to put them in prime position to advance to the conference semifinals for the first time since winning the NBA title in 2011.
NBA teams that have taken a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven have advanced 93.7 percent of the time in league history.
That stat means little to Dallas coach Rick Carlisle. He just wants the Mavericks to maintain the level of play they’ve displayed through the first two games.
“To this point, we’ve been very focused and very determined,” he said. “One of our real challenges will be to keep up this level of intensity and this level of fight.”
The Clippers are doing their best to display calmness, despite losing home-court advantage in the series on Sunday and then putting themselves in a deeper hole on Tuesday.
“I am not worried about it,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “You’ve got to win four games. That’s what it is. They won two games on our home floor and now we’ve got to go return the favor.”
Los Angeles needs to start by finding an answer for Luka Doncic.
The 22-year-old forward posted a triple-double in Game 1 with 31 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in the 113-103 win.
He came back with 39 points in Game 2 on 16-of-29 shooting from the field while also contributing seven rebounds and seven assists.
Doncic hasn’t been doing it alone, however.
Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 28 points last game, and Kristaps Porzingis finished with 20.
Dorian Finney-Smith contributed 18 points in Game 1, and Jalen Brunson had 15 off the bench.
As a team, the Mavericks shot 50 percent from the floor in Game 1, including 17-for-36 from 3-point range, and Dallas was even sharper in Game 2, shooting 18-for-34 from deep and 58.5 percent from the floor.
“They’re making shots,” Clippers forward Paul George said. “If we don’t dial in, if we don’t honor the coverages, if we don’t do a better job defensively, they’re showing that we’re going to pay for it.”
The Clippers have been getting their money’s worth from their stars, at least on the offensive end.
Kawhi Leonard is coming off a 41-point performance, and George scored 28, both making better than half their shots.
Leonard also had 26 points and 10 rebounds in Game 1, and George scored 23, right near his regular-season average (23.3).
Leonard, who won an NBA title with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014 and with the Toronto Raptors in 2019, said the key heading into Game 3 is “staying on an even keel.”
“Just like the regular season,” he said. “You might lose two in a row and then you go on a winning streak, so just having that same mentality.”
The Clippers haven’t yet turned things around after losing their final two games of the regular season to non-playoff teams. Those losses dropped Los Angeles into fourth place in the West and secured its matchup with fifth-seeded Dallas.
The Mavericks are aware the Clippers can play much better. They know they can, too.
“We know we’ve still got more to do,” Hardaway said. “More work to be done and a little bit of cleanup on both ends of the floor.”
–Field Level Media