Inside Report: Mavericks-Clippers recap — Barea, Dirk slam door on Griffin's Clippers, Mavs set for tussle with Lakers
Earl K. Sneed recaps the action from the Mavericks' fifth straight win Wednesday night, as the Dallas team tuned up for their much-anticipated bout with the two-time defending champion Lakers by battling through rookie star Blake Griffin and the Clippers.
LOS ANGELES — After watching as an onlooker while his team struggled in the opening quarters of a handful of games, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle placed the first 12 minutes of play at the top of his priority list heading into the Dallas squad’s Wednesday night matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Admitting that he didn’t want to give Rookie of the Year frontrunner Blake Griffin and the young Clippers team any confidence from the opening tip-off, Carlisle had an extra emphasis on the first quarter before the two teams even took the court, knowing that with a highly-anticipated showdown against the two-time defending champion L.A. Lakers on deck it was time for the stretch of sluggish starts to come to an end.
“Well, we’d like to get off to better starts, for sure. And some of it has been some turnover problems early in games, we’ve talked about that and we addressed it a little bit yesterday in practice. And we feel like we can do better, for sure,” Carlisle said before the game.
With that said, a confident Mavericks team took the court at the Staples Center for an all-L.A. back-to-back riding a four-game winning streak and looking for a ninth straight victory — the third this season — over the Clippers. Carlisle wouldn’t get his wish for a better start, however, but the coach had no problem settling for the victory, as the Mavericks (53-21) warmed up for Thursday night’s date against the reigning champs with a hard-fought 106-100 win to move to 3-0 on their current six-game road trip.
But the game would begin on a turnover by second-year guard Rodrigue Beaubois, which would prove to be a sign of things to come.
The Mavs would once again get off to a slow start, falling behind 13-4 from the get-go while Beaubois found himself in early foul trouble with two quick whistles. Meanwhile, the Mavericks’ turnover problem continued, as the Clippers’ advantage surged to double figures. But a trio of 3-pointers by sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic and 10-time All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki would help the Mavericks come storming back to within three, before heading into the second stanza down 28-23.
Despite the Mavs’ six first-quarter turnovers which led to nine points for the Clippers (29-46) at the other end, the visiting team remained within an arm’s reach after one.
“Right now our nemesis is early turnovers,” Carlisle explained. “We had six in the first quarter for nine points and that got us off to a bad start…So, we’d like to get off to a better start in terms of efficiency with the ball, and if we can do that it will help us.”
The Mavericks would get a spark from their bench in the second quarter, however, as reserve guard J.J. Barea sliced and diced his way through the Clippers’ defense for a pair of driving and-1 scores.
“[Barea] really got us going there in the first half,” Nowitzki said. “I thought him and Peja came in and really changed the game for us. We had nothing going, looked slow and couldn’t get anything going. So, they were big. Peja and J.J. really got our energy going in the first half and got us right back into the game.”
“Well, I was just trying to attack every time and get in the lane and create for myself or for my teammates, and it worked out tonight,” Barea added.
But that’s when Griffin began to assert himself on the offensive end to keep the Mavs at bay. The Mavs would respond, though, cutting down on their turnovers and knotting the game with scores by Beaubois and Nowitzki, wiping away a 13-point deficit. And in the final seconds of the half the Mavs would grab their first lead of the night, 48-46, heading into the break on a Beaubois lay-in off a feed from point guard Jason Kidd.
Outshooting the Clippers, 44.7 percent to 37.5 percent, the Mavericks were able to sneak into the locker room at the break with the slight edge despite their eight turnovers and a 26-21 rebounding disadvantage at the midway point. And although Mo Williams’ 13 points and Griffin’s first-half double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds helped the Clippers overcome their shooting deficiencies, the Mavs were still the team on the high side of the scoreboard after two quarters of play.
It wouldn’t take long for the Mavericks to lose the lead early in the third quarter, as Williams and Griffin continued to control matters while Beaubois was forced to sit with his fourth foul. But the Mavs would regain their edge and the lead with a 7-0 run powered by Kidd’s hustle and Nowitzki’s shooting. And after an empathetic dunk by backup big man Brendan Haywood and a 3-pointer from reserve Brian Cardinal — which came on Kidd’s 10th assist of the night — the Mavericks took a 75-70 lead into the final period.
“Our third quarters have been pretty good to us of late, and again our defense has been stepping up,” Kidd said of the play in the third. “We got off to a slow start, but we just don’t panic. We just keep coming.”
To put the Clippers away Carlisle would entrust Nowitzki and Barea again, and the two would once again deliver. While Nowitzki did it with his mid-range game the undersized Barea continued to get in the lane with dribble penetration. And although his consecutive free throw streak would come to an end at 74 — the second-longest of his career — it would be Nowitzki’s breakaway dunk in transition and the subsequent technical foul on Griffin that would put the Mavs ahead by 10 with 6:42 remaining.
Griffin wouldn’t be quieted so easily, however, leading an 11-0 Clippers’ run to pull to within five with 3:19 still on the clock. But again Barea would have the answer, finding nothing but the bottom of the net on a corner 3.
“Well, we’re gaining experience. Guys like Barea are not real young players anymore, he’s a veteran. And he’s stepped up big for us this year in a lot of crucial situations. I mean, the 3 he hit in the corner was probably the biggest shot of the game because of the run they were on, and his penetration was key for us as well,” Carlisle explained.
“We just needed a bucket,” Barea simply said of the sequence. “I hit that one from the corner and it was the bucket of the game, but they’re a good team and they’re always gonna keep coming. And Blake is a competitor, but we weathered the storm.”
In a three-guard lineup which included Kidd, the cat-quick Barea followed that up with a transition score after he and sixth man Jason Terry ran the two-on-one break to perfection, before Terry tracked down a game-sealing steal on L.A.‘s last comeback attempt in the final minute. And despite a pair of missed free throws by Barea that would have all but concluded matters a short time later, the Mavericks were able to hold off the Clippers in the closing seconds — after L.A. climbed to within four — behind Barea’s 16 points in the fourth.
“Obviously, we wanted to get some momentum heading into tomorrow, so it was a good win,” Nowitzki said. “We had a good lead there in the fourth quarter and didn’t really close the game out the way we wanted to. They made some plays and the next thing you know they’re back in the game, but we definitely needed the win.”
Nowitzki led the way with 24 points on 9-of-19 shooting, while Barea ended the night with 22 off the bench after hitting 6-of-8 from the floor and 2-of-3 from 3-point range. Stojakovic connected on 3-of-4 from behind the arc for his 11 points, while forward Shawn Marion made it four Mavericks in double figures with 10.
And after their first-quarter turnover woes, the Mavericks ended the night with only 11 giveaways, which led to 11 points for the Clippers. Meanwhile, the Mavericks feasted off the Clippers’ 18 turnovers, scoring 21 points at the other end.
Griffin led five Clippers in double figures with 25 points on 10-of-14 from the floor — setting a new Clippers’ record for points by a rookie in a season — to go along with 17 rebounds. Still, the Mavericks outshot the Clippers, 48.2 percent to 46.7 percent, while overcoming a 47-31 disadvantage in rebounding by knocking down 9-for-21 night from behind the 3-point line.
The Mavericks now turn their attention to the rubber match with the Lakers, looking to snatch the season series, which is tied at 1-1, while also trying to track down the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoff picture. The Lakers lead the Mavs by a ½ game in the conference standings.
“We know that we’ve got to come out tomorrow and play a whole lot better,” Barea said. “From the start, we’ve got to play a whole 48 minutes. We know that we’re playing the Lakers tomorrow. And we’ve won five in a row, it hasn’t been pretty, but they’re still wins.”
Note: In their final regular-season shot at the two-time defending champion L.A. Lakers (53-20), the Mavericks will take the court looking to extend their current five-game winning streak while bidding to take the season series. Thursday night’s Mavericks-Lakers matchup will tip off at 9:30 p.m. CT, airing nationally on TNT.
The team returns to Dallas to host the Denver Nuggets on April 6. The Nuggets lead the season series 2-1 including a 121-120 win over the Mavs in Denver on Feb. 10. That game has been moved up and will now tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest. Great seats are still available and tickets can be purchased by visiting the American Airlines Center box office, logging on to Mavs.com or by calling 214-747-MAVS (6287).
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