Sunday’s GAME 7 result: Los Angeles Clippers 126, Dallas Mavericks 111 ... and we've got Mavs Donuts that both look back and forward …
DONUT 1: LIVE BY THE 3, DIE BY THE 3 The Mavs made 10 3-pointers; the Clippers 20. The end.
As I have bemoaned all series (season?), Dallas doesn’thave a viable, sustainable Plan B. In a player, or in a strategy. Going bigger with Boban Marjanovic sorta worked. But fast-breaks points were as rare as sunny afternoons in DFW these days.
Offensive variations such as posting up 7-foot-3 Kristaps Porzingis never happened. Bottom line: Luka Doncic can channel Larry Bird’s shooting, Magic Johnson’s passing and Charles Barkley’s rebounding all he wants, but if the Mavs make only 28 percent beyond the arc they have almost no chance of winning.
Because of a bum heel he was a forgotten man that never suited up, but on a day like this the Mavs sure could’ve used the veteran, playoff-tested sharpshooting of J.J. Redick.
Tim Hardaway Jr. scored at least 20 points in all three of the Mavs’ series wins. In Game 7, he missed eight of his nine 3-pointers. As simple as it is sad.
DONUT 2: POOR. ZINGIS Most of us Porzingis doubters had our biggest fears confirmed in this series: He cannot be your team’s second-best player.
No. 3? Sure. But he is definitively not Robin to Luka’s Batman.
Rick Carlisle tried to sugarcoat the fact that Porzingis had only one 20-point game, and attempted to praise him for embracing his downsized role. But the truth is that $158 million players should win a game – or two? – in a series by themselves, and never ever be relegated into a decoy or third option.
Luka has “it.” Porzingis absolutely doesn’t.
One more thing: We have written extensively about how behind the scenes, the Luka/KP vibe is not a positive one. So even if KP lacked “it” but had bonded with Luka? He’d be a keeper.
But he isn’t. And he hasn’t. So he’s not.
DONUT 3: FATAL STRETCH After Porzingis made a pull-up jumper to give the Mavs an 81-76 lead with 6:53 remaining in the third quarter, the season went straight to Hades in a wicker carry-on.
Luka missed two free throws. Trey Burke and Maxi Kleber clanged 3-pointers. Three Mavs (including Doncic) failed to block out Kawhi Leonard on what turned out to be a layup and three-point play. Clippers’ reserve Luke Kennard shockingly made a couple of 3-pointers.
By the time the Mavs regained their composure, they’d been outscored a staggering 24-4 to turn a six-point lead into a 15-point pit of despair. They got no closer than seven in the final quarter.
DONUT 4: LUKA’S LEGACY Great, but not good enough.
For a guy that scored 29 of Dallas’ first 54 points, topped 40 points three times in the series and averaged 35, that’s harsh. But on a team that almost solely relies on him, Doncic needed to do even more. His performance in this series was like Dak Prescott throwing for 500 yards in a loss or Joey Gallo hitting two 500-foot homers while the Rangers dropped a double-header.
Historic. But, ultimately, empty.
Luka scored 46 points, but only 17 over the final 27 minutes. His total is only one shy of the record for a Game 7, held by Atlanta’s Dominique Wilkins. What did Luka need to break that record? Just make a free throw, or two. He missed four more Sunday.
Doncic’s assessments of his achievements? “Nothing yet,” he said. “We get paid to win, and we didn’t do it.”
Let’s be honest, Luka did more than enough to win this series. But on this team, it somehow wasn’t enough at all.
DONUT 5: STATUS WOE Carlisle has a championship ring, and the second-longest tenure in DFW head coaching history (13 years, behind only Tom Landry’s 29). But should he automatically return as Dallas’ coach again in 2022? Umm … I mean, over the last 10 seasons he’s had the luxury of teams led by future Hall of Famers in Dirk Nowitzki and/or Doncic and won exactly zero playoff series. Not championships. Series.
From where I sit, that’s a stinging indictment that at least deserves some severe analysis. Past be damned.
But said owner Mark Cuban shortly after the Game 7 failure, “(Carlisle) isn’t going anywhere.”
DONUT 6: BEATEN BY THE BENCH Led by an outta-the-blue 11 points from Kennard, the Clippers’ bench outscored Dallas’ by a whopping 27-6. Kleberwas a non-factor in the final two games. Jalen Brunson started missing his trademark floater in the lane. And Carlisle angrily gave up on Josh Richardson, the guy he envisioned guarding Kawhi when the Mavs traded for him last Fall. On consecutive possessions, Richardson missed a 3-pointer early in the shot clock and then lost the ball on a careless turnover. Carlisle quickly yanked him and inserted Trey Burke, who promptly went 0 of 3 and failed to score.
Minus-21-point production off the bench made Luka’s hill that much steeper to climb. While the Clippers are praising the production of Kennard and Terance Mann, the Mavs are left wondering what happened to their once-heralded reserves.
DONUT 7: FRESH BLOOD With the Mavericks now out, the NBA will crown a new champion that – at the very least – last won a championship almost 40 years ago. The Sixers won in 1983, the Bucks in 1971 and Hawks in 1958. The other five teams – including the Clippers – have never won.
DONUT 8: “BEATING” THE ODDS Remember back when we felt so good about the Mavs advancing to the second round because of the history? Yeah, notsamuch. The Mavs lost despite having two time-tested, 87-percent win predictors in their favor: Winning the first two games on the road, and winning Game 5 of a 2-2 series. Both, poof, out the window.Hard truth? After going up 2-0, the Mavs lost four of five including going 0-3 at home. Ouch.
DONUT 9: SILLY STAT Proving once again that numbers don’t matter once the playoffs start, the Mavs were 27-0 in the regular season when leading after the first quarter. In this series they lost Games 3, 6 and 7 in that scenario.
DONUT 10: TOUGH TASK The Mavs are now 1-3 in all-time Game 7s on the road. Their only win came in 2006 when Nowitzki forced overtime in San Antonio with a signature three-point play over Manu Ginobli. They’ve lost to the Lakers (by 15), Spurs (by 23) and Clippers (by 15).
DONUT 11: HOME SOUR HOME Regardless of Game 7, the Mavs lost this series at home. In front of 17,000-plus bonkers fans at American Airlines Center, they held a 30-11 lead in Game 3 and a nine-point lead late in the third quarter of Game 5. Somehow, some way, you have to find a way to hold one of those leads.Or … you spend all summer deciphering why you didn’t.
Still trying to wrap my brain around the Mavs having a 19-point lead, making 20 3-pointers and still finding a way to lose Game 3 at home.
DONUT 12: THE FINAL WORD Regular-season wins: 42. Road playoff wins: 3. Series leads: 2-0 and 3-2. Combined points by Luka Doncic: 250.
All for naught.
The Mavs – just like they did leaving the bubble last Summer – are headed for a long, head-scratching offseason figuring out how to give their superstar more help.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: “We’ve just got to keep building the team around him,” said Carlisle. “This is going to be an important offseason on many levels.”
Harsh reality: The Mavs have gone 10 seasons without winning a single playoff series.