Despite seeming like the nicest guy in the league, Luka Doncic can be a cruel individual.
His cruelty was on full display against the LA Clippers on Wednesday, as his Dallas Mavericks beat the LA Clippers 109-85.
The Clippers kept the game close throughout, only trailing by six points entering the fourth quarter. The game felt nothing like their recent blowout loss to the Pelicans, in which there was a clear lack of effort from the team. LA was working hard against Dallas; their defense looked good at times, though the box score might not show it. The Clippers were forcing many tough shots out of Dallas, but fortunately for the Mavericks, those are the types of shots that Doncic likes to take. He torched LA with 42 points and nine assists, showing off a full offensive arsenal that might be unparalleled in today’s league. He had the step-back three going all night, hitting six of his 11 shots from beyond the arc. Whether it was Paul George or Nicolas Batum, Doncic made his defender look silly with creative behind-the-back dribble moves in the lane. After Doncic created penetration, he either threw up his perfected floater or lobbed pinpoint passes to his bigs in the dunker spot. Out of pick-and-roll/pop situations, particularly with the amount of shooting Dallas has at every position (the Mavericks shot 15-34 from three, 44%), Doncic might be the most dangerous offensive player in the league.
Still, without him, the Mavericks are vulnerable. Per the Athletic’s Law Murray, Doncic sat for 5:12 tonight, and Mavericks were outscored by 13 points in that span. When Doncic was on the floor, Dallas outscored LA by 29 points. It truly was a one-man show, and the Clippers could do nothing but tip their hats to him.
Offensive woes for the Clips
LA is better off directing fault towards their offense. The Clippers had their second-worst shooting night of the season in terms of true shooting at just 48% (only trailing their first game against the Mavericks back in December, which was arguably their worst night in franchise history). They hit just nine of their 32 threes, and five of those came from Paul George. LA leads the league in three-point shooting, so this was definitely an outlier game in terms of shooting luck. Still, it is strange that their two outlier games this season came against the same team. Perhaps Dallas knows something we don’t about how to make sure the Clippers miss their open shots.
Regardless, Head Coach Tyronn Lue felt LA could’ve done a better job of finding good looks.
How does one stop Luka?
Seeing as they’re two of the better defensive wings in the league, I asked both Leonard and George about their approach to slowing down the young superstar—particularly, the shots they want and don’t want him taking.
If denying Doncic’s stepback three is Leonard’s mindset, George took it a step further.
It’s easier said than done, obviously. While Doncic might not have the range of a Curry or a Lillard, his gather off of a stepback is so quick and his release is so high, he has no problem attempting deep shots with a hand right in his face. Clippers fans know this all too well, looking back to his buzzer-beating stepback to win game 4 of their first round playoff series last year.
George’s foul call frustration continues
While George had a great game (28 points, seven rebounds, five assists), his tenuous relationship with the referees and his perceived lack of foul calls was once again an issue after the game.
George went 5-11 in the painted area against Dallas on Wednesday, and was officially fouled twice at the rim, shooting just three free throws. As a team, LA attempted 30 shots at the rim and attempted 11 free throws.
George then touched on his teammates’ unwillingness to give into the growing trend in the league to exaggerate calls.
Though it might not be rooted in lack of calls, George’s frustration surely extends to the rest of their team, as they’ve now lost eight of their last 13 games. They haven’t won two games in a row in over a month, back on Feb. 15 against the Heat. They’ll look to bounce back on Saturday, as they host LaMelo Ball and the Charlotte Hornets from Staples Center.