The Clippers Dominant First Half Was Enough To Win Game 1 Against Dallas

For the third time in five years, the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks meet in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, and despite the absence of Kawhi Leonard, it was L.A. that got the upper hand in the opener of the 2024 edition with a 109-97 win (that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated).

The Clippers roared out of the gates on Sunday afternoon, taking a 56-30 halftime lead as James Harden and Russell Westbrook led the way with 30-combined points to match the Mavs entire team total.

Dallas, meanwhile, couldn’t get anything going offensively, scoring just eight points in the second quarter as they laid an absolute egg in the early going. Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving both struggled to establish a rhythm and the rest of the Mavs were unable to lighten the load from the two stars at all.

The Mavs were able to chip away at the deficit, which grew to 29 at one point in the third, and looked like they might go on a run a couple of times to make it a game. Doncic and Irving had it going in the third, at one point scoring 21 straight for Dallas, as they finally cracked the code of the L.A. defense. After getting it down to 19 late in the third, Luka Doncic had a three in the air, but it missed and the Clippers continued their three-point barrage to push the lead back out to 23 going into the fourth quarter.

In that final quarter, the Mavs continued their improved play, getting the lead down to 15 with just over eight minutes to play on a Doncic three.

However, they could never heat up enough from downtown to really threaten the Clippers, who stalled out offensively themselves just trying to run out the clock but did enough to get a 109-97 win. Dallas shot just 10-of-33 from deep, and the only Mavs outside of Kyrie and Luka to knock down a triple were P.J. Washington (2-of-7) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (1-of-3). The Mavs stars combined for 64 points, 20 rebounds, and 10 assists, but the only other Mav to reach double figures was Washington with 11.

The Clippers, meanwhile, got a balanced effort with one of their stars not in the lineup. Harden led the way with 28 points and eight assists, but Paul George (22 points) and Ivica Zubac (20 points, 15 rebounds) both had nice nights and they got 13 each from Westbrook and Terance Mann. The big separator for L.A. was their three-point shooting, as they went 18-of-36 from deep, finding a big shot from three every time Dallas threatened to seize the momentum of the game.

As the series moves forward, the team that gets the most support from their non-stars will be vital to deciding this series. The Clippers got that in Game 1, inside and out, while the Mavs top two were left to shoulder too much of the burden. However, there are things Dallas can take from the second half, particularly with how they got Doncic and Irving going and how they saw some defensive improvements (with the understanding L.A. likely let off the gas some). We’ll see if they can build on those in Game 2, or if the Clippers will take full control of the series by winning both games at home to open things up.