Clippers, down 3-2, head to Dallas leaning on recent history

ByOhm Youngmisuk ESPN logo
Thursday, May 2, 2024

LOS ANGELES -- After playing their worst game of the series and losing Game 5 in what could have been their final game at Arena, the LA Clippers head to Dallas believing they can avoid elimination because they've done it before against theMavericks.

During the first round in 2021, the Clippers went to Dallas down 3-2, only to win and force a Game 7. They went on to advance after winning three times in Dallas during that series.

The Clippers are leaning on that experience after shooting an abysmal 9-for-35 from behind the arc and looking like they had no answer for Dallas' defense in a 123-93 loss Wednesday night.

"We just didn't play well, all around, defensively, offensively," Clippers coach Ty Lue said. "We just didn't play a good game, and that's OK. Turn the page. You still got to win four games, and we know we [can] win on that floor."

They will lean on their recent history against the Mavericks in the postseason, having beaten Dallas in six games in a 2020 first-round series and again in seven games in the first round the following postseason.

And they just won Game 4 in Dallas on Sunday.

"We've shown that past two playoff series," Lue said of being able to win in Dallas. "We were down 3-2 [in 2021]. We didn't play our best game and we understand that. I think we all understand that collectively. So we'll be better for Game 6."

Asked what it will take to bounce back from the worst postseason loss in franchise history, Lue said his team has no choice but to respond.

"Mentally, knowing that if we lose Game 6, our season's over," Lue explained. "So if you're a competitor, and you know what the playoffs are all about, then you will be ready to go on Friday."

Of course, when the Clippers beat the Mavericks in both previous playoff series, they had a healthy Kawhi Leonard. This series, Leonard has missed the past two games because of inflammation in his surgically repaired right knee. He continues to try to get the inflammation to go down with daily treatment.

But Lawrence Frank, Clippers president of basketball operations, said his star won't be cleared to play until he can move the way he did when he played 35 minutes in his return in Game 2 after over three weeks off.

Without Leonard, the Clippers had their worst night offensively in the series. James Harden, who had been superb and averaged 30.5 points in the previous two Clippers wins without Leonard, shot just 2-for-12, including 1-for-7 from the 3-point line. He finished with 7 points, 7 assists and 4 turnovers.

"Being human," Lue said when asked what led to Harden's tough night. "He's allowed to have a bad game. We didn't shoot the ball well. They tried to get up and pressure a little bit, which we didn't handle like we had in the first four games. He played bad. It's possible. He didn't play well.

"So I got to do a better job getting him in better situations and then being ready for Game 6, which I know he'll be better."

Harden and Paul George each scored 33 points in the Game 4 win in Dallas. But George shot 4-for-13 on Wednesday, finishing with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Russell Westbrook also had a rough shooting night, going 2-for-11 from the field, finishing with 6 points and 5 rebounds.

At one point from late in the first quarter to late in the third quarter, the Clippers missed 16 straight 3-point attempts.

Defensively, the team gambled too much in the first half, going for steals or trying to force turnovers, leaving the Clippers exposed.

Mavericks starLuka Doncic had 35 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds. But role players such asMaxi Kleber made the Clippers pay for their mistakes, making 5 of 7 from behind the arc for 15 points.

Next season, the Clippers are moving into their new arena, the Intuit Dome, in Inglewood, California. If the Clippers are not able to win in Dallas on Friday, Game 5 will have been their final home game at Arena.

The Clippers certainly hope they can return for a Game 7.

"The uncharacteristic mistakes that we made," George said. "That wasn't who we've been in this series. That's not who we are. So we got to get better. Especially in this situation, the chance to go up 3-2, and not take advantage of that opportunity.

"But, we've been here before. Going to Dallas, being down 3-2. It's got to be a win, and our mentality we have is to try and go get a win in Dallas."