3 Game-Changing Plays from Dallas Mavericks' Game 1 Loss vs. Clippers

We review three game-changing plays from the Dallas Mavericks' loss against the LA Clippers in Game 1.
 Apr 21, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George (13) defends
Apr 21, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George (13) defends / Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

With the playoffs underway, we’ll be introducing a new series for post-game analysis: three game-changing plays. It’s as simple as it sounds: whether it’s a play that started or capped off a run, changed momentum, or even just a crazy highlight, we’ll showcase those plays and why they impact the game. 

The Dallas Mavericks put themselves in a quick hole in Game 1, finding themselves down 34-22 after the first quarter. The offense was stagnant while the defense allowed Ivica Zubac to do whatever he wanted near the rim.

The Clippers would beat the Mavericks 109-97 without Kawhi Leonard, lighting up Dallas from beyond the arc with an 18-36 performance. Outside of Irving and Doncic, the Mavericks' offense was lackluster, and they’ll need more contributions from the rest of the team moving forward. 

As the Mavericks adjusted to Zubac, the Clippers continued to adjust with James Harden starting to take over, which is where we pick up. 

1. Harden Draws Shooting Foul on 3-Point Attempt in Second Quarter

Dallas wasn’t doing themselves any favors in the second quarter, finishing with just eight points in the period, but this was a moment where they had a chance to change the momentum instead of continuing to let it slip away.

The officials mistakenly called this a shooting foul on Maxi Kleber instead of calling Harden kicking his leg out for an offensive foul with 5:18 left in the second quarter.

What could’ve been an easy coach’s challenge for Jason Kidd, he decided instead to keep the challenge in his back pocket. Harden makes all three free throws, which started an 11-2 run to end the half for the Clippers, including an and-one on the following sequence for Harden.

The Mavericks would go into halftime down 56-30 as Harden had 20 points in the first half. 

2. Gafford Missed Dunk in Third Quarter

Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic started to find a little rhythm, combining for 29 of the Mavericks’ 34 points, but they needed some help from the others. Instead, this was a microcosm of the game to this point. 

Late in the third quarter, Daniel Gafford gets the inbounds pass and drives to the basket, but the dunk attempt hits off the back iron and the Clippers run in the other direction, getting an open corner 3 by Norman Powell as Gafford was late getting back into the play. 

Despite the dynamic quarter from Irving and Doncic, the Mavericks were only able to chip 3 points off the Clippers’ lead because of moments like these. 

3. Kleber Turns Down 3-Pointer in Fourth Quarter

The Mavericks had cut the lead down to 15 points midway through the fourth quarter but had given up a back-cut dunk by Paul George on an after-timeout set. On the ensuing possession, Kleber had a chance on a kick out for an open 3 at the top of the key but turned it down to get back in a pick-and-roll action with Doncic with a few seconds remaining in the shot clock.

A few seconds later, Doncic has to pass it off to Kleber for a bail-out three from well beyond the arc, which clanked off the backboard and rim. 

When a team is trying to get back in a game late, they can’t be turning down quality looks like these on the perimeter, especially given how the possession ended. Luka Doncic is Luka Doncic and you want the ball in his hands as much as possible down the stretch, but you also have to realize when the quality looks are there. 

Game 2 against the Clippers will be Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. CST at Crypto.com Arena. 

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Grant Afseth


Grant Afseth is a Dallas Mavericks reporter for MavericksGameday.com and an NBA reporter for NBA Analysis Network. He previously covered the Indiana Pacers and NBA for CNHI's Kokomo Tribune and various NBA teams for USA TODAY Sports Media Group. Follow him on Twitter (@grantafseth), Facebook (@grantgafseth), and YouTube (@grantafseth). You can reach Grant at grantafseth35@gmail.com.