In NBA history, teams that take a 2-0 lead end up winning the series 94 percent of the time. That is reason enough for the Dallas Mavericks, winners of Game 1 and readying for the best-of-seven rematch at 9:30 CT Tuesday night at the Los Angeles Clippers, to approach this as all-business.
"This is a business trip,'' coach Rick Carlisle said. "We’re here to play these two games at the highest possible level. We want to win every game we play.''
So it's all-business. And it's all-Luka.
“There is so much gravitational pull toward him,'' teammate Jalen Brunson said of Doncic, who keyed the 113-103 Game 1 win with a triple-double, becoming the first player in NBA history to record three such games in his first seven playoff outings. "When the ball is in his hands, everything is focused on him.''
To that end, L.A. is openly discussing methods to curtail Luka, who in Game 1 tormented the Clippers with 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Coach Ty Lue has suggested he'll use Kawhi Leonard to guard Doncic ... but if that was such a good idea, why didn't he do it more in Game 1?
Because, in short, the Clippers - despite being 6.5-point favorites in this game - are teetering toward desperation. As touted as the combo of Kawhi and Paul George is, they have never really accomplished much together.
It's impossible to gauge which team is really "feeling pressure.'' But as Lue searches to figure out that big Ivica Zubac cannot guard Dallas' wings and that little Pat Beverly cannot guard Doncic and that taunting fallen defender Maxi Kleber following an L.A. dunk doesn't really represent "toughness'' ...
The Clippers are suddenly in scramble mode.
That's not to say Dallas is the better team here - not yet, anyway. Are the Mavs going to shoot 47 percent from the arc again? Is Kleber (heel) healthy enough to play? Will Brunson, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dorian Finney-Smith again combine for 54 points?
And on the Mavs' flip side: Kristaps Porzingis shot poorly in Game 1. Fix that, and ...
"There’s things we've got to do better in Game 2,'' Carlisle said. "(Game 1) ... was very, very, very close. It was not a 10-point game. It got to be a 10-point game when they trapped and fouled a few times at the end. These are all going to be very close games.”
Luka Doncic, at 22 and in just his third NBA season, is increasingly demonstrating the ability to win close games for a Dallas club that until this weekend hadn't won a Game 1 in a decade. The next test for Luka and the Mavs will be to win a close series.
Or, if Dallas somehow gets up 2-0, to win a series that doesn't have to be all that close.