DALLAS - In some ways and at some moments in last year's Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs, the young Dallas Mavericks seemed a bit unnerved by the Los Angeles Clippers' mouthy approach to postseason basketball.
After all, as Kristaps Porzingis said following the Sunday night results (including Dallas' regular-season-closing loss at Minnesota) that put the Mavs in the No. 5 spot and opposing No 4 Clippers again this year, "It was extremely important for us to get that first experience, just to understand what the intensity's like and what's the emotional and mental state you're in when you go into the playoffs.
"Each game, it's like life or death."
That feeling begins on Saturday, the NBA announcing on Tuesday that Game 1 of this series will take place that day, in L.A..(tip-off time TBD.)
And when it does? And when it comes to the attempts at verbal intimidation (not to mention the physical intimidation that the Clippers used to final win that series 4-2)? Doncic suggests he's about to thrive on it.
“It was fun to play; I’m not going to lie,” Doncic said with a Sunday night smile. “There was a lot of trash-talking, a lot of hard plays, but it was fun. That’s what basketball is about . . . Trash talk is always there. And if it’s not, you know you’re not really competing.”
This year's Mavs finished 42-30 (to L.A.'s 47-25). With a healthy Porzingis - remember, he exited the series last year with a knee problem - maybe Dallas can compete. This year's Clippers still feature stars in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George - and the intimidating presence of Marcus Morris Sr., who played "bad guy'' in the Orlando Bubble series with repeated attempts to brutalize Doncic.
“He’s a hell of a player, hell of a defender,” Doncic said.
There are positives from that series to build on, Doncic's postseason debut punctuated by giant scoring outbursts and the memorable Game 4 overtime win when he nailed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
But it was a loss, in the team's first playoff series since 2016. And the Mavs haven’t won a playoff series since their 2011 title run.
Dallas won this year’s season series, 2-1, as Doncic averaged 30.3 points, 11 assists and 8.3 rebounds against the Clippers while shooting 47.8% overall and 37% on three-pointers.
READ MORE: KP - We're 'Ready To Go' For Playoffs
“I’m extremely excited; I think we all are,” Porzingis said. “Just experiencing the playoffs for the first time, without fans. We’re looking forward to this year having some fans back and trying to play our best basketball.”
And to endure the Clippers' best attempts at intimidation.