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Kawhi Leonard's Clippers Pull Away From Mavs: 3 Big Takeaways

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George led the LA Clippers to a double-figure win over Luka Doncic's Dallas Mavericks. has some big takeaways.

The Dallas Mavericks (25-23) failed to build on their blowout win over the Miami Heat by losing 112-98 to the LA Clippers (25-24) on Sunday. 

The vast majority of the Mavs' scoring production came from receiving a combined 72 of 98 points from Luka Doncic (29), Tim Hardaway Jr. (22), and Spencer Dinwiddie (21). The rest of the roster combined for just 26 total points, with only nine coming from the bench group. 

Kawhi Leonard led the Clippers with 30 points, nine rebounds, and three assists. His co-star, Paul George, chipped in 21 points, six rebounds, and four assists despite getting into early foul trouble. A key difference? Los Angeles received 19 points from Norman Powell off the bench with the second unit as a whole totaling 40 points. 

The Mavs led 54-49 at halftime and the game was tied at 79-79 entering the final period, but the Clippers outscored Dallas by a 33-19 margin in the fourth quarter to achieve a double-figure victory. 

Here three big takeaways from the Mavericks' loss to the Clippers: 

3. Poor Execution After Halftime; Free Throw Woes

The first half featured strong execution from the Mavs, even leading by as many as 10 points at one point. The Clippers had been contained to shooting just 16-43 from the floor despite them going 9-20 from beyond the arc. It's safe to say, this was a strong half despite not receiving a dominant Doncic performance. 

"I thought the second half, we just came out a little flat," Mavs coach Jason Kidd said. "Giving up the lead and then being down by five, we kept fighting. Give them credit – they were the better team. But I think we learned a lot this afternoon."

The Mavs still were competitive entering the final period with a tied score at 79. The state of affairs unraveled with the Clippers frequently getting to the free throw line and converting at an almost perfect clip. Dallas got outscored 33-19 in the final period, proving to be too much to overcome. 

Despite facing a tied game to begin the fourth quarter, the Mavs scored a game-low 19 points while shooting just 7-17 from the floor, 1-7 on 3-pointers, and 4-10 on free throws. Aside from attacking out the post, there just wasn't much working for Dallas' offense in the period. Meanwhile, the Clippers were getting out to run  getting matchups they wanted and taking advantages. 

"We did have some good looks. We didn't capitalize on them," Mavs guard Tim Hardaway Jr. said of the team's fourth quarter performance. "They did a good job of running their lanes and trying to get easy ones and getting us cross-matched. Their supporting cast did a good job of knocking down shots and taking advantage of matchups.”

In the end, the Mavs lost a 14-point game after shooting 15-26 on free throws. There has been a troubling lack of consistency in this area throughout the season. To make matters worse, the Clippers were nearly perfect from the line after shooting 30-31 on their attempts. 

"You've got to work," Kidd said of the Mavs' free throw shooting woes. "You've got to be confident. Your routine – you've got to work on it every day at practice. It is a big thing. When you get to the line the most in the league and you're shooting in the bottom of the league, that doesn't help you win. Free throws can help you win, especially when you're a good team. 

Kidd explained further: "The Clippers shot 98 percent. They missed one. Understand it stops runs and it continues to keep a run going. That's our next step, being able to make those free throws."

2. Mavs Lost Battle of Re-Driving

In a matchup that featured a lot of small ball personnel and sending double teams at the opposing team's superstar, it's a major advantage to have players capable of knocking down catch-and-shoot jumpers in addition to attacking closeouts to get into the paint. 

The Mavs lack options to attack closeouts and consistently create a positive outcome. If one of their more reliable options, like Josh Green, isn't managing to execute in a game, the circumstances become all the more troubling. As a result, there is more settling for tougher 3-pointers that occurs. Meanwhile, the Clippers executed these sequences effectively. 

"It puts a lot of pressure on our wings being able to close out to their wings," Mavs coach Jason Kidd said of the tea They won that battle this afternoon. When we closed out, they just re-drove us. If it wasn't a layup, it was free throws. That's something that we can learn to do when we are small. I thought we settled for some 3s there when we could have re-drove when they are small to get to the rim. That's something that we'll look at and we'll get better at."

Norman Powell inflicted a lot of damage on the Mavs attacking off the catch in both of the recent matchups between these two teams. He is a prime example in the contrast between the capabilities of these team's supporting casts. He can get converts jumpers at a high clip or get to the rim. 

1. Limited Points of Attack; Trade Deadline Needs?

After last year's trade deadline, the Mavs thrived when they had a trio of reliable guard creators that can make tough plays to initiate the action, but also, when they could re-drive to get the defense out of rotation. Right now, the only perimeter threats consistently capable of doing so are Luka Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie.

The Clippers have the option of playing through Kawhi Leonard and drawing heavy attention to get the defense out of rotation when they double. However, when he's on the sidelines, a substantial differentiator between their situation and the Mavs is the presence of Paul George. 

It will help to gain Christian Wood back from injury to have another spot where the Mavs can attack a versatile defense. Regardless, there appears to be a need for that reliable third perimeter creator to help set the tone. Additionally, against a deep team that plays small, another playable wing wouldn't hurt, either. 

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