Thank goodness, a few teams have been eliminated! I love this game, but watching and writing about 32 games in 8 days has been intense. Just a breezy two game schedule today : Denver hoping to stave off elimination against Utah and the Mavs and Clippers both hoping to take a 3-2 advantage against the other.
Nikola Jokic was absolutely phenomenal offensively for the Nuggets, right up until he wasn’t. He started 8/8 overall, including an absolutely insane 5/5 from downtown. 21 first quarter points for the big man to go along with a couple of gorgeous assists. Quin Snyder said at the quarter break that it was the game plan to take away the inside game and make them play from outside. It wasn’t in the plan for Jokic to make that many threes but they had to trust the plan and hope he would start missing. Spoiler alert : he did. A lot. Unfortunately for Denver, no one else stepped up and by half time they were down by 9.
Early in the first quarter, Mitchell got a wide open three point shot. No one even bothered to close out or get a hand up. Denver was just happy to watch him sink the shot. This is happened again in the third quarter, except it was Ingles and he missed. The point is the same though, Denver had given up. After that Ingles shot, it felt like they were happy to just ride out the game and go home. Utah had every major statistical advantage. They were dominating inside the paint and outside the arc. A 15 point lead for Utah. Enter Jamal Murray. Once again, he put the Nuggets on his back and did all he could to try and carry them over the line. It inspired the troops and the Nuggets actually started playing defense. Just like that, they were up and they never looked back. Murray played the entire second half and finished with 42 points, 8 boards and 8 assists. Denver get the 10 point win and keep their playoff dreams alive.
Mitchell lead for the Jazz with 30 points. Clarkson and Conley each contributed 17. Ingles improved on his previous games (not a very difficult achievement) and had 13. Another double/double for Gobert It felt like the Jazz had this game in the bag, but once Murray showed up they panicked. They couldn’t hit their shots and they could not figure out how to stop him. They still have the distinct advantage in this series. They only need to win one more game. The key is Murray. Will the Jazz figure out how to stop him in the pick and roll?
It was just not the night for the Mavericks. The Clippers hit the ground running and never let up. Leonard and George came out and smacked Dallas right in the mouth. It was all Clippers from start to finish. At one point in the first half, L.A. went on a scoring run that felt like it never ended. They outscored them by more than 25 points during that time. The Clippers bench was rowdy and their defense was in the face of the Mavericks all night. They slowed the tempo and forced Dallas into a half court game all night. They were forcing turnovers and were very clearly in the head of their opponents, particularly Luka Doncic.
On the topic of Luka, it was a very tough night for the Mavericks’ superstar. He was clearly having problems with his ankle and was very frustrated at the officials, basically from the opening of the game. He is far too good of a player to let himself be taken out of the game mentally like that. It was only a matter of time before he picked up a technical foul in this game. I hope he can use this game as a learning experience and can come out mentally stronger for the next game. I doubt he would of liked it, but I think Carlisle should of sat him for the second half. They were down big and I think Luka would of benefited from the rest for the next game.
Clippers fans must of been relieved to see PG13 come out and have a great game of basketball on both ends of the court. George was aggressive offensively and must of felt great to have the ball find the bottom of the net. Leonard was his usual dominant self. When Leonard and George are both on, it’s very hard to see this team being defeated. They combined for 67 points and sat for majority of the 4th quarter. It wasn’t just those two though, it was a great team effort by everyone to get this win. They rebounded and boxed out very effectively, out rebounding Dallas by 18. They shot the ball with lethal accuracy, finishing around 63% from both the field and downtown. Most importantly, they rallied together and got in the head of their opponents. Harrell was so loud and engaged, even when he was on the bench. That attitude is infectious and it’s so important to have in the playoffs.
This has been a very chippy series of basketball. It’s shaping up to be a great rivalry. I just wish the referees would relax a little bit. In a close series like this, emotions are going to run high. Players and coaches are going to be very invested in the game. I’m a big believer in letting players talk a little trash, especially in the playoffs. I think that too many technical fouls were called in the game tonight. Luka needed to get one because he was talking a lot. He was asking for one. Rick Carlisle did deserve one for blowing up at the official. I don’t like it when someone picks up two technicals in the same incident. Unless they are really going ballistic. He was clearly very animated, but the bench was coming to take him away and calm him down. I don’t think he was given a fair chance to calm himself before receiving the second technical and being ejected. I don’t think any other technical fouls were warranted in this game. Did Zubac get one for dunking? Kane Fitzgerald needs to stop reviewing every play and stop calling technical fouls every other possession. I was (pleasantly) surprised that Hardaway wasn’t given a flagrant 2 and ejected for his hit on George. With the way they’ve called this series, I thought he was gone for sure. I don’t think he meant to hit his head, especially not that hard, but it was a careless play and the referees did get that one right.
Why did Doc Rivers call a time out with a minute and a half left, when his team was up by 45 points?
This series isn’t over yet. The Clippers made a huge statement today and it’s up to Dallas to respond. I’m sure Doncic will come out incredibly motivated and hungry for revenge. The big question is the status of Porzingis. Will he be available to suit up for game 6? He is currently listed as day to day. The Clippers will need to come out with the same energy and effort, the Mavericks will not go down without a fight.