The Los Angeles Clippers left their winning ways at Staples Center for what turned out to be a 97-95 loss to the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center on Thursday. L.A. failed to hit triple digits on the scoreboard for the first time in five games, following up a 54-point first half in Dallas with 42 after the break.
Chris Paul finished with 15 points, six assists and six rebounds, but missed a midrange shot and turned the ball over in crunch time. Ditto for Blake Griffin, who scored a team-high 21 points on 9-of-23 shooting. J.J. Redick (nine points on 2-of-9 from the field) missed a corner three as time expired. DeAndre Jordan tallied his 34th double-double of the season, while Austin Rivers led all reserves with 13 points, including eight in the third quarter.
Quote of the Night
Despite some sluggish play after halftime, the Clippers had their chances to steal a win down the stretch in Dallas. But the team’s execution during the final few minutes was spotty, with missed shots and turnovers leaving L.A. with one more lead changed than it would’ve liked.
For the Clippers to accomplish their goals this spring, they’ll have to improve their play in late-game situations. Head coach Doc Rivers acknowledged as much in Dallas.
“At the end of the game, we have to be flawless,” he said, “and we were not.”
1. Scoreless Finish For Clips
With two-and-a-half minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Chris Paul curled through the paint to find DeAndre Jordan for a lob to put the Clippers up 95-92. That was the last time L.A. scratched in Dallas.
The Clippers missed all three of their shots from then on, including a clean look by J.J. Redick from the corner as time expired. In between, L.A. turned the ball over three times, with Chris Paul losing the ball out of bounds and Blake Griffin getting stripped by Dallas’ Harrison Barnes.
The Mavericks were hardly hot themselves. But an 18-footer from Seth Curry and what turned out to be a game-winner by Barnes—his second such shot at the Clippers’ expense this season—sent the visitors out with the L.
For the Clippers, this shortfall fit the overall statistical picture. According to NBA.com, L.A. has a net rating of minus-10.0 points per 100 possessions in the last three minutes of three-point games—one of the 10 worst marks in the league.
“That’s going to be what we have to get great at,” Rivers said.
2. New Look, Same Result For Mavs
The last time the Clippers saw the Mavericks, Deron Williams and Dorian Finney-Smith were starting next to Dirk Nowitzki, Wesley Matthews and Barnes. Those two have since been jettisoned—Williams to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Finney-Smith to the bench—but Dallas beat L.A. all the same: by two points, with Barnes scoring the deciding bucket.
The changes, though, proved to be plenty effective for the Mavs. Seth Curry, who’s settled into Dallas’ starting backcourt, burned L.A. for a game-high 23 points, moving his team to 13-3 when he scores 18 or more. Nerlens Noel, in his second start since coming to Texas at the trade deadline, gave the Mavericks a pesky presence in the middle with his eight points, 12 rebounds (four on offense), two blocks and two steals.
The Clippers still came out on top on the glass (45-34) and in the paint (44-32), and matched the Mavs’ nine threes with nine of their own. But 17 turnovers against Dallas’ scrambling defense were too many for L.A. to overcome.
3. Runs Can Be Fun
For the first 19 minutes of the night, the Clippers looked lethargic, losing battles for loose balls and struggling to find any real rhythm on offense.
Then, with the Mavericks ahead 44-32, L.A. woke up. A DeAndre Jordan dunk here, a Blake Griffin layup there and a slew of stops sparked what wound up as a 22-4 Clippers run. Over the final 5:01 of the second quarter, the visitors held the Mavs to 2-of-9 shooting (0-of-2 from three) and forced three turnovers and piled up 10 points in transition and six off second chances.
“I think we really just started to be the aggressors,” Raymond Felton told FOX Sports West’s Kristina Pink at the half.
That attitude didn’t stick with the Clippers once they left the locker room. Dallas responded to L.A.’s closing run with a 13-2 spurt to start the third quarter.
4. DJ in Big D
Even in defeat, DeAndre Jordan had himself another monster night in Dallas. He finished a perfect 6-of-6 from the floor—the 22nd game of his career with at least that many makes without a miss and first of 2016-17—for 14 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks.
That performance extended a ruinous run for Jordan against the Mavericks since he spurned them in free agency during the summer of 2015. In seven games opposite Dallas over the last two seasons, he’s averaged 12.7 points, 14.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks while shooting 72.5 percent from the field. Narrow it down to dates at the American Airlines Center, and the numbers become even more impressive: 15.5 points on 76.9 percent shooting with 14.3 boards and 1.5 blocks.
5. Big Weekend For Seeding
L.A.’s loss, combined with Utah’s 108-101 win over the New York Knicks on Wednesday, leaves the Clippers 1.5 games back of the Jazz in the race for fourth place out West. As far as seedings are concerned, that makes Saturday’s matinee showdown between the Clippers and Jazz at Staples Center all the more important.
If L.A. wins, it will pull within a half-game of Utah and seize the season series, three games to one. Should the Clippers lose, they’ll fall 2.5 games behind the Jazz and jeopardize the head-to-head tiebreaker, since Utah currently has the upper hand in conference record.
While the Clippers aren’t worried about where they wind up among the top eight in the Western Conference, they could fall further than fifth with a few more missteps down the stretch of the schedule. The Oklahoma City Thunder, with Russell Westbrook rampaging for triple-doubles, sit just one game back of L.A. The Memphis Grizzlies, meanwhile, are itching to move up from seventh place, 1.5 games behind OKC and 2.5 shy of L.A.’s postseason real estate.