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

Clippers-Mavericks: 5 Takeaways as Doncic Leads Dallas to Game 5 Win

Doncic powers through a dominant performance, while Dallas' stifling defense limits Harden and LA, taking a 3-2 series lead.

Luka powers Mavs to 3-2 lead

LOS ANGELES — Luka Doncic exited the court with 5:39 remaining, untucking his jersey as his team enjoyed a commanding 30-point lead.

That decisive margin held until the final buzzer, with the Dallas Mavericks securing a dominant Game 5 victory over the LA Clippers, 123-93.  With the win, Dallas holds an 82.5% statistical advantage in taking the series, returning home for Game 6 on Friday (9:30 ET, ESPN).

Historically, teams winning Game 5 in a series tied 2-2 have an 82.5% chance of ultimately advancing.

Dallas inflicted LA's most significant postseason loss in franchise history.

Doncic tallied 20 of his 35 points after halftime.

"In the playoffs, a win is a win, whether by one point or 50," Doncic stated in his postgame interview with TNT. "But our work isn't finished. We still need one more victory."

Here are five key takeaways from the contest:

1. Doncic Battles Through Injury

Doncic led Dallas with 35 points, 7 rebounds, and 10 assists. However, his overall series statistics reflect a player who is struggling.

Let's not overlook what we're witnessing, though - a franchise leader grinding relentlessly to secure victory.

Doncic's 3-point shooting was undeniably poor throughout Game 5, a pattern mirrored across the series.

However, Doncic sustained a right knee sprain during Game 3's opening quarter.  This setback has visibly limited his mobility, despite extensive treatment between Games 4 and 5.

Doncic admitted that if this were the regular season, he "probably" wouldn't continue playing on the injured knee.

However, these are the playoffs.

Doncic has stepped up accordingly, contributing on both ends of the court.

It's evident the injury has hampered the five-time All-Star's scoring. Doncic entered Game 5 shooting just 38.6% from the field and 27.1% from beyond the arc, despite posting his fourth career playoff triple-double in Game 4.

Doncic missed his first six 3-point attempts in Game 5 before finally connecting with 2:22 remaining in the third quarter. We also witnessed multiple first-half instances where Doncic struggled to stay defensively in front of his assigned player.

Ultimately, he delivered his fourth postseason performance against the Clippers with at least 35 points and 10 assists.  Only Oscar Robinson boasts this stat line in four games against a single opponent in NBA history (Boston).

2. Mavericks Overcome Sluggish Starts

Dallas overcame its pattern of slow starts, seizing a 25-24 first-quarter lead that expanded to a 10-point halftime advantage. Notably, the Mavs haven't topped 23 points in the opening quarter of the series, averaging 19.8 points on 35.9% field goal and 15.6% 3-point shooting.

Dallas entered the contest with a minus-36 first-quarter point differential in the series.

Doncic and Maxi Kleber fuelled the early surge,  together accounting for nearly half of Dallas' first-half scoring. Doncic tallied 15 points on 15 attempted field goals, while Kleber added 12 points, sinking 4-of-6 3-pointers.

Doncic contributed eight first-quarter points, with three assists and four rebounds. Derrick Jones Jr. chipped in seven points in that span, shooting 3-for-4 with two blocks.

The contest featured 12 lead changes in the first half.

The Clippers conceded 10 points off five turnovers.

Interestingly, LA's usual scoring suspects failed to ignite offensively. Ivica Zubac and Terrance Mann provided the punch with 13 and 11 points respectively in the first half.

Stars James Harden and Paul George shot a combined 4-for-15.

Dallas closed the first half with a 13-4 run.

Meanwhile, LA missed an astounding 14 consecutive 3-pointers to start the game. 

3. Shooting Woes Plague Clippers

One would expect LA's shooting rhythm to improve with the series returning to Arena, where the Clippers held a 31-23 record heading into Game 5.

Unfortunately, their shooting regressed.

This is likely a significant source of frustration for LA, given their 30-3 record this season when shooting 50% or above.  The 3-point shot has been particularly pivotal for the Clippers in these playoffs.

LA connected on 18 triples in each of their victories within this series. 

4.  Perhaps LA Isn't Better Without Kawhi Leonard

LA's two series wins without Leonard might have been fool's gold, driven in part by James Harden's Game 5 regression.

Harden cemented himself as the Clippers' most consistent performer through the first four games. However, in Game 5, the 2017-18 NBA MVP vanished, scoring only seven points on 2-for-12 shooting, along with four turnovers.

Harden's teams now hold a dismal 4-8 playoff record when he scores below 10 points.

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

No dispute there.

In the two victories without Leonard, Harden averaged 30.5 points on 58.5% from the field and 62.5% from 3-point distance.  Conversely, in the two losses sans the two-time Finals MVP, Harden averaged 21.5 points on 48.1% field-goal shooting and 38.9% from beyond the arc.

Harden was the Clippers' leader in points (26.0), made 3-pointers (17 total), assists (7.0), and blocks (1.3) through the first four contests.

Dallas limited LA to under 95 points for the third time this series.  The Clippers only fell short of 95 points three times throughout the regular season.

5. Maxi Kleber Catches Fire from Deep

The Mavericks' seventh-ranked player in postseason minutes heading into Game 4, Kleber emerged as their 3-point sharpshooter in Game 5.  The seventh-year veteran tallied just 15 points over the series' first four games, shooting 4-for-8 from beyond the arc.

In Game 5,  Kleber matched his entire playoff total with 15 points on 5-of-7 3-point shooting, while the rest of the Mavericks went 9-for-32.

Kleber connected on 4-of-5 3-pointers in the second quarter as Dallas surged to a 12-point lead. 

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