Friday’s NBA playoffs takeaways: Mavericks knock out Clippers; Magic force Game 7

By Josh Robbins, Joe Vardon, Tim Cato and Law Murray

The Dallas Mavericks defeated the LA Clippers 114-101 on Friday night to advance to the Western Conference semifinals.

Luka Dončić led Dallas in the first half with his elite play – finishing with 13 assists – while his co-star Kyrie Irving ignited the American Airlines Arena with his dazzling second-half scoring, finishing with a record 30 points and five 3 points. .

No Clippers starter scored more than 18 points, and James Harden and Paul George combined to shoot 11 of 34 from the field and 2 of 16 from 3 in the playoff game.

Mavericks 114, Clippers 101

Series: 4-2, the Mavericks advance

Dallas takes elite defense to next round

The Mavericks are headed to the conference semifinals for the second time in three seasons. The team has reached this point with an elite defense, one that the team has gradually built its roster around and to provide the stinginess needed to accentuate its two stars. In Game 6 on Friday, Dallas closed out the game with much of that defense, even though the team’s franchise player, Dončić, struggled with his shooting.

Dončić finished with 28 points on just 9 of 26 shooting and just one successful shot of the 10 he attempted from behind the 3-point line. But that’s why Dallas has two All-Stars, and Irving scored 30 to help turn Dallas’ decisive victory into a comfortable victory throughout the entire second half.

There are three questions for Dallas’ upcoming series against the Oklahoma City Thunder which begins Tuesday. First, Dallas has more size since acquiring Daniel Gafford, who made his Mavericks debut off the bench against the Thunder in February to the tune of 19 points and nine rebounds. Rookie center Derek Lively II didn’t play in this game, but the two now form a huge two-headed center rotation, the type of physical size that has been the Thunder’s main weakness all season. Can Dallas take the lead with second chance points and offensive rebounds?

Second, Oklahoma City caused the most turnovers in the league in the regular season, while Dallas’ offense had the fourth-lowest rate in the league. Who wins this battle?

And third, Dončić struggled with his shooting throughout the series and wasn’t quite the MVP level player even though he made up for it with an exceptional defensive effort. But surely, at some point, he’ll make some shots against the Thunder, right? — Tim Cato, Mavericks beat writer

Roster changes predict Clippers disaster

Both of the Clippers’ wins in this series came with Amir Coffey starting in place of Kawhi Leonard. With Leonard unable to play well or at all due to inflammation in his right knee, the starting spot at forward opposite All-Star George was the wild card in the starting five.

Game 5 was something of a turning point. Coffey struggled early, scoring just 3 points on 1 of 6 field goals. Clippers coach Tyronn Lue pulled him early in the third quarter. Later in the third quarter, he introduced PJ Tucker to the series after four DNP-CDs.

Tucker was arguably the least effective player with expectations this season. The Clippers were outscored by 1.9 points per game with Tucker on the floor. The only players with a worse plus-minus for the Clippers this season were KJ Martin (two games played), Kobe Brown (rookie), Xavier Moon (two-way contract) and Brandon Boston Jr. (rarely used). The Clippers were 11-17 when Tucker played this season.

But Lue changed the starting lineup before Game 6. He didn’t reveal who before the game, but instead went with Norman Powell to help the offense or Russell Westbrook to help the defense and perhaps bring George and Harden to score first, Lue chose Tucker. .

It was an immediate and predictable disaster. The lack of collective athleticism was immediately evident, as the Clippers allowed offensive rebound after offensive rebound and got killed in the possession battle.

By the time Tucker was first subbed, the Clippers trailed 20-10 with 4:45 left in the first quarter. With Tucker on the bench for the remainder of the first half, the Clippers managed to tie the game at 52 for the half. Powell went on a 19-6 run with the starters in the final 6:11 of the second quarter.

But Tucker was back to start the second half. It took Dallas 108 seconds to go on an 8-0 run to start the third quarter, with fast breaks and the first 3 seconds of the game going to the previously ineffective Dončić and the previously invisible Irving. Tucker didn’t leave the court in the third quarter until the 4:25 mark, with the Clippers losing 74-63 despite being tied at halftime. Dallas had outscored the Clippers by 21 points in Tucker’s minutes through three quarters.

Unfortunately for the Clippers, Tucker finished the game with 8 points, 2 rebounds, 3 turnovers and 5 fouls, the worst being a 4-point play from Irving. The Clippers didn’t play well enough after halftime with Tucker on or off the floor, but being in the early holes to start both halves doomed the Clippers and hastened the end of their season. — Law Murray and the Clippers beat the writer

Series: 3-3

Magic expands its range

With Gary Harris out, Magic coach Jamahl Mosley elected in Game 6 to start the same big lineup he employed to finish Game 5: Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner, Jonathan Isaac, Paolo Banchero and Wendell Carter Jr. .

Everyone except Suggs is at least 6 feet 10 inches tall.

Why did Mosley choose this group? This put his two best defenders, Suggs and Isaac, on the ground simultaneously. He also kept the Magic’s usual second unit of Cole Anthony, Markelle Fultz, Joe Ingles, Isaac and Mo Wagner intact (as Isaac was replaced midway through the first quarter and reinstated to start the second quarter). And it also allowed Mosley to not rely on rookie Anthony Black or second-year swingman Caleb Houstan, who, while promising, haven’t played significant minutes in weeks.

Did it work? It was probably a mixed bag. Although Orlando “won” the first quarter for the first time in the series, outscoring Cleveland 29-25, the same starting lineup was on the field to open the third quarter when Cleveland opened with a score from 13-2.

Defensively, the very tall lineup almost certainly played a role in holding the Cavs to 7 of 28 shooting from 3-point range. But the Cavs also outscored the Magic 66-38 points in the paint.

Mosley made a significant adjustment during the fourth quarter, choosing Anthony over Isaac the vast majority of the time. Anthony, who had lost that series, played a big role, securing an offensive rebound and immediately following with a layup to extend Orlando’s lead to 96-91.

The ability to adjust on the fly is one of Mosley’s greatest strengths.

Friday, it paid off big.

Heading into Game 7 on Sunday, it’s certain that Mosley will continue to trust his instincts and adjust on the fly as necessary.

That got his team this far.

The Magic are one win away from reaching the second round. —Josh Robbins, NBA Senior Writer

Cavaliers’ playoff drought off LeBron continues

The Cavaliers still haven’t won a playoff series since 1993 without LeBron James wearing their jersey.

They came close on Friday night, and Donovan Mitchell did his best LeBron impression – 50 points on 36 shots in 42 minutes. It would have been a signature performance of Mitchell’s career, regardless of team, had Cleveland won Game 6 and thus the series. The number of players coach JB Bickerstaff can trust dwindles with each passing game, and a hint of fatigue seemed to overcome the Cavs in the final moments – Mitchell’s turnover with 56 seconds left, out of timeout, with Cleveland led 98-93. excellent example. The turnover was one of eight for Cleveland in the fourth quarter.

Mitchell and Darius Garland (21 points in 43 minutes) both played the entire fourth quarter and most of the second half. Caris LeVert, meanwhile, didn’t play at all after halftime. This is not a criticism; Bickerstaff had a game to win, had a five-point lead heading into the fourth quarter and went with the players he thought could take it home. Mitchell scored all 18 points for the Cavs in the final quarter.


Donovan Mitchell, despite the defeat, leads the Cavaliers to the franchise-altering seventh game

In your wildest dreams, you wouldn’t have imagined Marcus Morris Sr. not only on the field in critical moments, but also at the start of the game. With Jarrett Allen once again unable to play due to a rib injury, Bickerstaff countered with Morris instead of Isaac Okoro, who started at that spot in Game 5. The idea was likely to alleviate some of Orlando’s size, but the extra spacing Cleveland benefited from in the game. 5 was not there on Friday.

Morris finished with 2 points on 1 of 7 shooting. Evan Mobley, long called the future of the franchise, had 3 points and 7 rebounds.

Overall, the Cavs couldn’t make a 3. They’re shooting better than the 7 of 28 they made for Game 6, and that probably would have been against Boston. Again, Cleveland enjoyed an incredible 66-38 advantage in paint scores, despite the size disadvantage.

After the game, Mitchell and Bickerstaff pointed out the glaring free throw discrepancy in Game 6, as Orlando shot 26 times at the line compared to Cleveland’s 10. Mitchell made it clear that wasn’t the only reason they lost, but he did say they scored 66 points in the paint and getting 10 free throws is “crazy.”

Game 7, phew, will be upon us soon. There is so much at stake for the Cavs and the individuals inside this locker room. The future is on the line. They’ll have to sleep on that notion, as well as this: Mitchell played like the best version of himself, and it wasn’t enough in a closing game.

It’s a heavy thought. — Joe Vardon, Senior NBA Writer

Required reading

(Photo: Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)

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