Two teams that have struggled in close games inside the NBA bubble go head-to-head in a possible playoff preview when the Los Angeles Clippers take on the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night near Orlando.
Both teams are just 1-2 since reaching Florida last month, with the four losses coming by a total of just 10 points.
After falling 153-149 in overtime to Houston and 117-115 to Phoenix, the Mavericks (41-29) finally got onto the winning side of a close one with a 114-110 overtime triumph over Sacramento on Tuesday.
It took a historic performance by Luka Doncic to get it done. The second-year standout became just the fourth NBA player since 1976 to have a 30/20/10 triple-double when he put up 34 points, a career-best 20 rebounds and 12 assists against the Kings.
The others to have accomplished the feat, since the NBA-ABA merger, were David Lee in 2010, DeMarcus Cousins in 2018 and Nikola Jokic in February at Utah.
Doncic walked away unimpressed … by the team performance, anyway.
“I think we played one of the worst games ever and we won,” he said to reporters afterward. “We didn’t play good, and we still hung in there and helped each other and never gave up. I’m proud of the win.”
The Mavericks’ three-man show of Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. added a fourth member Tuesday when Dorian Finney-Smith grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds to complement 16 points in just the eighth double-double of his career.
Dallas has little chance of moving up from seventh place in the Western Conference standings, which would mean a first-round playoff matchup with the second seed.
The Clippers (45-22) traveled east with that No. 2 seed in tow, but now find Denver closing in.
Los Angeles’ grip has loosened because of two narrow defeats — 103-101 to the rival Lakers in the bubble opener and 117-115 to Phoenix on Tuesday.
In between, the Clippers put together an impressive performance in a 126-103 dismantling of Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans.
The primary goals for L.A. in the bubble were to keep Kawhi Leonard and Paul George healthy, while folding in newcomers Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris.
So far, so good on both fronts. Leonard (32.3 minutes) and George (32.0) have been fulltime performers in all three games. Meanwhile, Jackson (25 points in first two games) and Morris (25 in last two) have been productive.
Also, the Clippers welcomed back Lou Williams from quarantine for the Phoenix game after he left the bubble last month. Los Angeles now moves forward just one man down until Montrezl Harrell returns to the team after tending to a family matter.
Williams had some explaining to do Tuesday about his sojourn to an Atlanta strip club, which also offers food including a wings option named after him.
“I just did something that was routine for me,” he told reporters. “At the time, I thought I was making a responsible decision. After looking back on it with everything going on in the world with the pandemic, maybe it wasn’t the best quality decision. So, I chalk it up to that, take my ‘L’ and keep moving.”
Williams had seven points in 21 minutes against the Suns.
–Field Level Media