The play-offs started just over a week ago but the Clippers can already say they’re coming back a long way. Led 2-0 after the loss of the first two games in their Staples Center, the Californians left for Texas in a very bad position, facing 17,000 Dallas fans boiling at the idea of finding their team in the finals. Concern has now changed sides after the very solid copy made by the Clippers on Sunday night (106-81) to return to 2-2.
The collective strength of the Clippers
Two days after their first victory (118-108) in the series, Los Angeles was again collectively expected. If they scored slightly less than usual, Kawhi Leonard (29 points) and Paul George (20) were intractable in defense. The two superstars were well helped by their lieutenants, with the strong activity of Reggie Jackson (15 points, 5 assists), the versatility of Nicolas Batum (10 points, 5 assists, 4 interceptions).
The Frenchman was for the first time titular with the Californians in this series of play-offs, in place of the pivot Ivica Zubac in great difficulty over the first three matches. Tyronn Lue’s decision to go for a smaller five, without a professional interior, paid off for the Clippers. Much more effective in defense, they limited the Mavericks to 34% shooting success and even won the rebound battle (53-41) The 13 three-point shots taken in by the Californians also made the difference against a team Texan for once out of order (5/30) in this sector.
Luka Doncic, a first day without
Brilliant in the first three matches of the series, the Slovenian leader had his first day without. He even experienced an ordeal on the free throw line (0/5) and behind the arc (1/7). Far from his 44 points in Game 3, Doncic finished this time at 19 units, despite 24 shots attempted. Without the usual address of their leader on the floor, the Mavericks quickly sank, especially since his lieutenants also passed by.
Less successful in Dallas than at Staples Center, Tim Hardaway Jr has converted only one of his eight attempts. The precious sixth man Jalen Bruson (2/8) also had a difficult evening. Only Kristaps Porzingis, sole holder with more than 50% shooting success, managed to get his head out of the water (18 points).
The cards are reshuffled
As the specter of an early road exit drew near for the Clippers, Tyronn Lue’s men set the record straight. While waiting for match 5, the psychological ascendancy is returned to the camp of the Californians who could well succeed in a rare comeback. Only 6% of teams led 2-0 went on to win the series in NBA history. The Clippers have just come halfway. The next meeting between the two teams is therefore likely to be decisive for the Texans as for the Californians on Tuesday night.