History may be a pretty telling guide when it comes to what happens when the Dallas Mavericks win Game 1 of a first-round playoff series on the road.
The Mavericks defeated the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 1 on Saturday, the 23rd time in team history the Mavs have played Game 1 in a first-round series.
The 113-103 upset victory pushed their record in those first-round games to 12-11 all-time, and, of course, the Mavs are trying to win a first-round playoff series for the first time since that 2011 NBA Championship run.
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said the effort was the result of team-wide production, and it's true. But Luka Doncic effort - 31 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists - is what has the Clippers scrambling to figure out what to do in Tuesday's Game 2.
Said L.A. coach Tyronn Lue, when asked if Kawhi Leonard should be on Luka: "I think you'll get what you're asking for on Tuesday."
Said Carlisle: "Luka has seen virtually every coverage known to mankind, every kind of double-team, every kind of switching scenario and double-teaming 30 feet away from the basket.''
What Dallas hasn't seen enough of? Game 1 success. Road success in the playoffs. Those two things leading to series success.
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But let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?
The Mavs are 10-12 all-time in first-round series — 5-3 in the best-of-five era and 5-9 in the best-of-7 era. The Mavs have a harder time clearing the first round since the best-of-seven series began, though to be fair they were 5-4 after the 2011 playoffs.
The Mavs have had it much easier in Game 1 at home, whether it’s Reunion Arena or the American Airlines Center. In those cases, the Mavs were a Top 4 seed. All-time, they’re 10-2 in Game 1 at home in a first-round playoff series. That makes sense. Higher seeds tend to do better at home, especially in the first round.
As one might also expect, the Mavs aren’t that good away from home in Game 1 of a first-round series. In fact, they’re kind of epically bad.
Dallas’ victory over the Clippers on Saturday was like finding that old photo of your dad from a family vacation, the one that you thought had been lost for years. It was just the Mavs’ second Game 1 road victory in a first-round playoff series in franchise history.
The first, you ask? Well, that came in 2009 against the San Antonio Spurs. The Mavs, then a No. 6 seed, won Game 1, 105-97, at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.
What happened next? Well, the Mavs lost Game 2 to the Spurs, 105-84. That left the series tied at 1-1 and the Spurs having seemingly put the Mavs in their place.
Eight days later, the Mavs won the series. It’s the only time in Mavs history that the franchise won a first-round playoff series as the lower seed with a Game 1 victory on the road. For the record, the Mavs do have one other first-round playoff series victory when starting on the road. That came in 2001 against Utah. But the Mavs lost that first game.
This is a singular data point, of course. But when you consider the Mavs have such a horrible track record after losing Game 1 of a first-round playoff series as the lower seed, let’s embrace the possibility that a win on Saturday could lead the Mavs toward Luka Doncic’s stated goal of winning a playoff series - no matter what Kawhi Leonard and his mates try to do to stop it.