The Dallas Mavericks are holding their own in the playoffs and are doing it by playing together and for each other.
In Game 1 of the Mavs’ playoff series with the LA Clippers, Luka Doncic ended up in a tie-up with Marcus Morris after a foul. Luka didn’t take kindly to Morris’ keeping hold of him well after the foul and told him so. Morris had no problem getting in Luka’s face after the incident and without ANY hesitation, a unicorn entered the fray. Kristaps Porzingis came over and got nose to nose with Morris to stand up for his guy.
The situation quickly resolved and all sides walked away calmly, but the damage was done resulting in KP’s ejection with more than 9 minutes left to go in the second half.
KP had gotten a technical foul earlier in the game for air-punching after a blown blocking call, so it’s easy to say his emotions were running high in his first-ever playoff appearance.
It can be argued that he has to be smarter than that in an important playoff series, which KP did himself:
Kristaps Porzingis said he’s got to be smarter and control his emotions, especially when he already has a tech. #Mavericks #NBABubble pic.twitter.com/JKAgiCbjGM
— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) August 18, 2020
Other fans of the game will call it a ridiculous reason to eject one of the biggest factors in a playoff series, namely the Mavs GOAT himself:
That ejection is super soft…
— Dirk Nowitzki (@swish41) August 18, 2020
Regardless of the validity of the techs and ejections, KP was gone for the majority of the second half and the Mavs fell to the Clippers 118-110 in a game that saw the Mavs stick close to the 2nd seed Clippers when their second star and primary shot blocker was removed from the game for half of the game.
After the game, Luka was asked about the dust-up with Morris and how KP reacted.
“I knew KP had my back.”
Luka Doncic on the ejection of Kristaps Porzingis in the 3rd quarter of tonight’s Mavericks – Clippers game. #NBAPlayoffs #DALvsLAC pic.twitter.com/T5dSiTmDGm
— FOX Sports Southwest (@FOXSportsSW) August 18, 2020
The takeaway here is that even though they took an L, both Luka and KP felt confident that they were in sync in that moment. In the heat of the playoffs, it’s easy to forget that this season was about getting these two players EXACTLY where they are: playing well together and playing FOR each other while improving on last year.
Check, check, and check.
No one in their right mind expected Luka and KP to compete for a championship this year with Luka only in his 2nd year and KP coming off a 20-month injury rehab. This season was about gelling and improving and competing, which has absolutely occurred.
After KP fouled out, this team showed that they play for each other with ball movement and unselfish play, even with Luka going for 42 by himself. The ‘next man up’ mentality was on full display as the shorthanded Mavs scrapped to stay with one of the strongest rosters in the NBA.
After the game, while Mavs Twitter was mad at refs and techs and spinning conspiracy theories, the players’ demeanors was confident. They proved to themselves that they could go toe to toe with the Clippers and if the continued to play together and FOR one another, they absolutely have a chance at playing spoiler to LA’s second super team.
In Game 2, the Mavs came out with that confidence and shocked the Clippers with a wire to wire win that showed this team’s balance. Luka flirted with foul trouble all night, but that ‘next man up’ mentality held the game together for a Mavs that tied the series up 1-1. Luka only played 9 of his 28 minutes in the second half leaving the rest of the team to pick up his slack and they did just that. When the game finished, there were 6 Mavs that finished with double digits with 44 points combined coming from the Mavs bench.
When they desperately needed a win for morale and their superstar facilitator was riding pine for fouls the Mavs had the chemistry between ALL their players they closed out a game against arguably the deepest roster in the NBA this year.
The chemistry and flow can really be summed up in this play with Luka on the bench halfway through the 4th that saw the ball flow effortlessly for the jam.
My friends… We’re having fun. pic.twitter.com/NEwWb0PFVM
— Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla) August 20, 2020
While the Mavs have leveled the series at 1-1, making it a fresh 5 game series, they still face an uphill climb, but they are playing for each other and are giving themselves a chance.
Winning this series would be an amazing accomplishment for this team, especially Luka and KP, but a hard-fought lost series could also be a galvanizing event for these two players experiencing their first playoff action that propels them to that next level.
Dirk always said that he doesn’t think the 2011 title run happens without the heartbreaking loss of the 2006 series. Fans know this, too, that the sweet taste of victory is built on the back of a long run of heartbreaks along the way.
No matter where this team ends its season, this shows that the Mavs have a foundation for YEARS that can absolutely compete at the highest level.
Featured Image: Kim Klement