Too much Luka: Clippers now staring at a 2-0 hole

LOS ANGELES (News4usonline) – If there is an answer for Luka Doncic, the Los Angeles Clippers don’t have it. After watching the young stud drop a triple-double in Game 1 of the series, Doncic continued his torrid scoring as the Slovenian dropped 39 points in route to helping the  Dallas Mavericks take a commanding 2-0 series lead.

Now as the series shifts to Dallas for the next two games, the Clippers must bounce back from a 127-121 Game 2 loss or risk facing a daunting 3-0 uphill battle for the rest of the series.

Despite a heroic effort from Kawhi Leonard in the first half, his game-high 41 points weren’t enough to carry a poor shooting Clippers team down the stretch. After scoring 30 points in the first half, Leonard was held to 11 points over the last two quarters as the Mavericks forced Paul George and company to take more shots from the perimeter.

For George, he ended his night with 28 points on 12-22 shooting from the field which included a lackluster 1-7 from the three-point line. Even though his team has dropped the first two games of the series, George doesn’t feel it’s time to panic, yet.

Luka Doncic goes for 39 points to help lead the Dallas Mavericks to a 127-121 Game 2 win against the Los Angeles Clippers. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline
Luka Doncic (77) goes for 39 points to help lead the Dallas Mavericks to a 127-121 Game 2 win against the Los Angeles Clippers. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

“It’s competition, we got to rise to the occasion,” George said. “The fact of the matter is if we don’t, we’re done for. But it’s no level of concern. We just got to play our game. We got to play through this. We got to incorporate our defense.”

Coming into the series as the best three-point shooting team in the league, the Clippers found themselves shooting well below their season-high from beyond the arc for a second straight game at Staples Center. On the night, the Clippers shot 13-33 from deep which was good for 39%, a much-improved effort from their Game 1 horrific shooting night that saw them shoot 27% behind the arc.

Yet the team still shot below their league-leading 41% on the season.

Despite the improved night from beyond the arc as a team, and a two-point halftime lead after overcoming an early deficit in the first quarter, this Clippers team continues to have a lack for the answers against a Mavericks team who has been scorching hot on offense in the first two games of this postseason series.

For Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue, the defensive game plan of blitzing Doncic and forcing the ball out of his hands early in possessions seemed to backfire as the Mavericks supporting cast continued to knock down three-pointer after three-pointer all night long.

“We had some game plan mistakes again tonight,” Lue said. “When you are double teaming Luka or blitzing Luka you are leaving some guys wide open. We had game plan mistakes that we need to clean up.”

Paul George of the Los Angeles Clippers drops the hammer for two of his 28 points against the Dallas Mavericks in Game 2 of the NBA’s first-round playoff series between the two teams. The Mavericks defeated the Clippers at Staples Center, 127-121. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

Not only did the game plan against the magician fail, but the lack of contribution beyond Leonard and George down the stretch also hurt the team offensively. For Lue, the Clippers found themselves scrambling all night on the defensive end of the floor, leaving them to take bad shots on the offense side of the ball.

“I think down the stretch we took some tough shots instead of attacking. Took some quick three’s where we should have kept attacking them” Lue said. “Outside of that, I thought defensively they had us all over the place. They attacked the paint, they got points in the paint. They knocked three’s down.”

But being down two games to zero as the series shifts over to Dallas is not a concern for Lue. Acknowledging that he has been down before in other playoff series, Lue knows that this is a race to four wins, something that he still believes his team can accomplish despite dropping the first two games on their home court.

“I’ve been down all my life and succeeded so I’m not concerned,” Lue said. “Now we have to go on their court and win two games.”

As the focus shifts to winning a game or two in Dallas, Lue will return to the chalkboard in hopes of cleaning up the mistakes his team has made in the last two games.

“Cleaning up our mistakes, we got our offense going, how we want to attack, but we have to do a better job of stopping these guys,” Lue said.

Winning in Dallas won’t be an easy task considering how well the Mavericks have played on the offense side of the ball, as role players Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. each finished with 20 plus points on the night. For Hardaway Jr, this was his second night of scoring 20 plus points, and now has knocked down 11 three-pointers in the first two games of the series.

Hardaway knocked down the biggest shot of the night with 1:03 left in the game, a deep three-pointer that ended any remote chance of a Clippers comeback.

“It’s something you live for man,” Hardaway Jr. said. “I mean, it’s easier said than done when you’re up a couple points. But when you’re in that zone and you’re in that mindset and you’re playing against a team like that, those shots are very key throughout the game.”

With the series heading switching scenes to Dallas for the next two games, the Clippers must do what the Mavericks were able to accomplish in Game 1 of this series and at least get a spilt while on the road. The ability to stop Doncic and the rest of the Mavericks’ role players will be a vital part of finding success.

While the heat and weather have turned up out West, the Clippers know that finding one victory is all they need to extend the series.