The Dallas Mavericks gave an important game away to the Los Angeles Clippers, as the first-round series between both teams is now at 2-1. The Mavs still have the advantage in the series, but they are somewhat still the underdogs just because they’re not as talented as the Clips.
While Games 1 and 2 went the Mavs’ way, the Clippers put pressure on the Mavs by punching back and making adjustments.
So what do the Mavs have to do? Make counter-adjustments to the Clippers’ adjustments. That’s playoff basketball at it’s finest, and so far, the chess match between head coach Rick Carlisle and Ty Lue has been fun to watch, at least from a tactics perspective.
As the Mavs try to regain momentum in this series, here are four key things they must do to avoid the Clippers from tying the series.
4. Find ways to get Luka Doncic’s teammates involves
The Mavs operate with a heliocentric offense that revolves around Doncic. The Slovenian is the Mavs’ offense, and in Games 1 and 2, he torched the whole Clippers squad.
Luka was cooking the Clippers lmao pic.twitter.com/Zz6FUhHHJp
— Alex. 👋 (@Dubs4O8) May 26, 2021
Now, Lue has adjusted by making sure the Clippers throw not just their best defenders but almost the whole kitchen sink at Doncic. This means that Luka’s teammates will be more available since the attention is on the rising 22-year-old superstar. The Mavs have to find ways to improve their floor spacing and get players like Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. involved, so it takes off pressure from Doncic.
The Clippers’ approach on Luka will only work if Doncic’s teammates don’t step up. It also doesn’t help that Doncic could be physically limited after suffering a neck injury. Thankfully, Carlisle is an elite offensive coach and can certainly find ways to maximize his team’s offense. The main question here is if Doncic teammates show up.
3. Adjust to the Clippers’ small-ball lineup
One of the biggest tactics the Clippers used to maximize their offense was to go small. When LA did that in Game 3, it seemed like the Mavs looked lost for a while. Carlisle needs to find an answer to this.
Whether that’s starting Dwight Powell over Maxi Kleber or putting Porzingis at the five, the Mavs need to find ways to keep up with the Clippers’ small-ball offense.
2. Limit Kawhi Leonard and Paul George as much as they can
This series has so far been all about the superstars. For the Clippers, Leonard and George have been huge in the past three games.
George was fantastic, especially in the second quarter, while Leonard was spectacular throughout the game. This can’t keep happening for the Mavs, particularly if their role players are struggling. This series will be decided based on which superstar stands out, so Dallas needs to find ways to contain Leonard and George to force the Clippers’ role players (who have been up and down) to handle the offense instead.
1. Approach the game with the same confidence as game one and two
One game in the playoffs can boost so much for any team moving forward. Take the Milwaukee Bucks’ victory over the Miami Heat in Game 1 of their first-round series. After that game, the Bucks did not look back and played with confidence throughout the series, leading to a sweep.
The Clippers entered Game 3 with their back against the wall. Now that they defeated the Mavs on their home floor, the confidence could be back. With that said, Dallas (led by a young superstar who does not lack confidence at all) cannot succumb to the pressure.
The pressure will be on the Mavs side since they’re less talented. However, if there’s one thing we know about this Luka Doncic-led team, it’s that they take after their leader. They don’t give up and have the uttermost belief they can send the Clippers home.