The LA Clippers outlasted the Dallas Mavericks 4-3 in an unforgettable series that totally mocked the concept of the homecourt advantage. In a weird turn of events, the first 6 games were won by the visiting team. The Clippers’ win on the crucial 7th and final game was the the first and only time that the host team won!
I had picked the Clippers to win the series at the start. They lost 2 in a row at home. I gave up on them; and they won 2 in a row in hostile territory in Dallas. I regained confidence in them, and cheered for them in Game 5 at home. They promptly lose again. So now they’re 2-3 with 2 games in Dallas. I despaired on them, and they consequently won again in Dallas! What the…… Finally, people expected them to lose in Staples based on this series’ track record; and this time, they defy the odds, winning the game that mattered most. What a rollercoaster ride that was!
In all, the Clippers and the Mavs met 10 times this season: thrice during the regular season, and 7 times during the playoffs. Eight of the 10 games played were won by the visiting team, a phenomenon quite difficult to explain. This just defies logic! But this is something for us to further analyze later. At the moment, all I can say is that I’m happy they won, no matter how wild the journey has been.
Let me delve into some of my takeaways from that grueling, character-building win by the Clippers.
1. Exorcizing the ghost of the catastrophic collapse in last year’s Bubble Games. Vilified no end for having lost a sure-win 3-1 lead against the Denver Nuggets in the Playoffs last year, the Clippers bounced back not once, but twice against the vastly-improved Mavericks. They were down 0-2, and trailing badly at 11-30 in the 1st quarter of Game 3 in Dallas, but they refused to say die. Once again, they had 1 foot on the grave at 2-3 with the Mavs hosting again, when the Clips ‘rose from the dead’, mounting a dramatic comeback that emphatically erased their playoff-choker image. The team simply refused to give up in the face of extreme adversity. It was a gutsy, gritty character win that certainly won the hearts of many.
2. Clippers’ reserves saved the day. Despite the fact that Dallas’ main man Luka outscored LA’s Kawhi 46-28, the Clippers’ off-the-bench scoring made up for that, totally demolishing their Mav counterparts 27-6. It was the strong supporting cast that spelled the big difference for the Clippers. There was more participation on their offensive sets, suggesting a better, more complete team effort from the Clippers.
3. A spin-off to that, a Luka-centric offense may bring accolades and records, but it will never bring home a title. Doncic is obviously a very talented player. But being tops in both scoring and assists suggests that the ball is always in his hands. And that will be detrimental to a team. In the history of the NBA, 2 players stand out for having led the league in scoring and assists in the same year. Oscar Robertson did it in 1968, Nate Archibald did it in 1973. Both couldn’t win the championship during those years. Oscar won a ring finally in 1971 with the Bucks, but that was when he finally relinquished the team’s main scoring chores to Lew Alcindor (before he changed his name to Kareem Abdul Jabbar).
4. Ty Lue’s calming demeanor and decisiveness. Ty didn’t go to panic mode after the Game 2 loss. He simply made some adjustments, particularly in creating variations to try to contain Luka. He continued to show extreme trust and confidence in his players. This would foster the good vibes, the unselfishness, the unity and the total team concept that was the biggest difference from last year’s team. His audacity in utilizing Terance Mann and Luke Kennard in crucial stages of the game would baffle the Mavs momentarily and pay dividends.
The Clippers now move on to the second round against that much-vaunted complete team, those regular season top-seeds in the Western Conference, Utah Jazz. This will now be a different ballgame, as Jazz head honcho, Donovan Mitchell, will have plenty of help, unlike Luka Doncic, who had to carry his team on his shoulders alone.
But with the resiliency and dogged determination they demonstrated in Games 6 and 7 of their Mavs series; the good vibes, the unity and the tighter bond they have developed, plus the leadership and the cool confidence Coach Ty Lue has provided them, they stand a good chance of winning against the favored Utah Jazz.
I won 7 of the 8 match-ups in the playoff’s first round. My only casualty was the LA Lakers, and that was on account of AD’s injury. So yes, I’m betting the house money on the Clippers beating the Jazz in 7 games. My other bets for this round: I got the Nets beating the Bucks in 6; the Sixers winning over the Hawks in 5, and the Suns besting the Nuggets in 6.
Gentlemen, place your bets. It’s showtime!!!
Cover photo from deseret.com. Other photos courtesy of: GMA Network, newsday.com, The Sports Rush, Dallas News, mavsmoneyball.com, clipsnation.com, postguam.com, thesmokingcuban.com, CBS Sports.