2024 Playoffs: West First Round | Clippers (4) vs. Mavericks (5)

Clippers-Mavericks: 5 takeaways as Luka Doncic fuels Game 5 win

Luka Doncic grinds through a dominant performance, while Dallas' defense stifles LA to take a 3-2 series lead.

With Luka and Kyrie getting plenty of help from the role players, Dallas now has a chance to close out the series at home.

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LOS ANGELES — Luka Doncic ambled off the floor for the night, untucking his jersey with 5:39 left and his team leading by 30.

That lopsided margin remained at the end, as the Dallas Mavericks captured Game 5 on Wednesday with a decisive 123-93 win against the LA Clippers. The victory provides the visitors an 82.5% chance to take this series as it heads back to Dallas on Friday for Game 6 (9:30 ET, ESPN).

Historically, Game 5 winners of a 2-2 series advance at that 82.5% clip.

Dallas handed LA its worst loss in franchise postseason history.

Doncic scored 20 points of his 35 points in the second half.

“In the playoffs, it doesn’t matter if you win by one or you win by 50,” Doncic told TNT during his postgame interview. “It’s still a good win. But the job is not done. We need to win one more.”

Here are five takeaways from the matchup:

1. Banged up Doncic is battling

Doncic led Dallas with 35 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists. But his overall series numbers indicate he’s struggled.

Don’t discount the eye test, though, because that points to a franchise leader grinding hard to get it done.

Doncic shot terribly from 3-point range in Game 5. He’s done that all series.

But remember, Doncic sprained his right knee in the opening quarter of Game 3. The setback has restricted his movement ever since, despite him taking in extensive treatment sessions during the break between Games 4 and 5.

Doncic admitted he’d “probably not” continue to play on the knee if the Mavs were still in the regular season.

This is the playoffs, though.

Doncic has responded accordingly on both ends of the floor.

The injury has affected the five-time All-Star’s production. Despite tallying his fourth career postseason triple-double in Game 4, Doncic entered Game 5 shooting 38.6% from the field and 27.1% from deep.

Doncic didn’t hit his first 3 in Game 5 until 2:22 remained in the third after missing his first six attempts from distance. We saw at least three instances in the first half where Doncic struggled defensively to stay in front of his man.

Ultimately, he produced his fourth career postseason outing against the Clippers with 35 points and 10 assists. Oscar Robertson is the only other player in league annals with that stat line in four games against a single opponent (Boston).

Inside the NBA: Mavs are at their best when Luka Doncic gets others involved

2. Mavericks improve on slow starts

Dallas bucked its trend of slow starts, taking a 25-24 lead in the first quarter that swelled to 10 points at intermission. Remember: the Mavs hadn’t scored more than 23 points in the opening frame of the first four contests, averaging 19.8 points on 35.9% from the field and 15.6% from deep.

The Mavs entered this one sitting at minus-36 in the first quarters of the series.

Credit Doncic and Maxi Kleber with the boost. The duo combined for nearly half of Dallas’ points before halftime. Doncic reeled off 15 points on 15 field-goal attempts, while Kleber contributed 12 points, shooting 4-for-6 from 3-point range.

Doncic scored eight points in the first quarter and dished three dimes to go with four rebounds. Derrick Jones Jr. contributed seven points over that span, making 3-of-4 attempts with two blocks.

The matchup featured 12 lead changes in the first half.

The Clippers surrendered 10 points off five turnovers.

Interestingly, the usual suspects in LA didn’t provide much scoring punch. Ivica Zubac and Terrance Mann did that with 13 and 11 points, respectively, over the first two quarters.

Stars James Harden and Paul George combined to shoot 4-for-15.

Dallas embarked on a 13-4 run to close the first half. Meanwhile, LA missed 14 3s in a row to start.

3. Shooting woes sink Clippers

You’d expect LA’s shooting to improve with the series moving to Crypto.com Arena, where the Clippers were 31-23 entering Game 5.

It didn’t. In fact, it worsened.

That’s probably frustrating for LA, considering it is 30-3 this season when it shoots 50% or better. You could say the 3-ball has been key for the Clippers up to this point in the postseason.

LA knocked down 18 3-pointers in each of its wins in this series.

4. Maybe LA isn’t better off without Kawhi Leonard

The two LA wins this series without Leonard amounted to fool’s gold, in part because of James Harden’s decline in Game 5.

Harden had established himself as the Clippers’ most consistent performer through the first four contests. In Game 5, the 2017-18 Kia MVP disappeared, scoring seven points on 2-for-12 shooting with four turnovers.

Harden’s teams are now 4-8 all-time in the playoffs when he scores fewer than 10 points.

“He didn’t shoot the ball well,” LA coach Tyronn Lue said. “They tried to get up and pressure a little bit, which we didn’t handle like we have.”

No disagreement here.

In the two wins without Leonard, Harden averaged 30.5 points on 58.5% from the field and 62.5% from 3-point range. In the two losses without the two-time Finals MVP, Harden averaged 21.5 ppg on 48.1% shooting (38.9% on 3-pointers).

Harden led the Clippers in ppg (26.0), made 3s (17 total), apg (7.0) and bpg (1.3) over the first four games.

Dallas held LA to fewer than 95 points for the third time this series. The Clippers scored fewer than 95 just three times in the regular season.

5. Maxi Kleber caught 3-point fever

No. 7 in postseason minutes for the Mavericks going into Game 4, Kleber proved to be the top dog from deep in Game 5. The seventh-year veteran scored 15 points over the first four games of this series, draining 4-of-8 from 3-point range.

Kleber matched his playoff total in Game 5 with 15 points on 5-for-7 shooting from 3-point range while the rest of the team was 9-for-32.

Kleber was 4-for-5 from deep in the second quarter as Dallas built a 12-point lead.

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X.

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