The LA Clippers should be prepared for a big game-two effort from Kristaps Porzingis.
The LA Clippers were able to get by the Dallas Mavericks in the opening game of their first-round playoff matchup despite a Herculean effort from the Mavs young superstar Luka Doncic. The second-year guard scored 42 points and added nine assists and seven rebounds to keep Dallas close despite the third-quarter ejection of running-mate Kristaps Porzingis.
Porzingis was ejected after being called for his second technical foul of the evening with 9:10 left to play in the third quarter. The technical was called on Porzingis for “being an escalator” to a situation between Doncic and Clippers forward Marcus Morris.
“I saw him getting into Luka’s face and I didn’t like that,” said Porzingis, who had 14 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes before his ejection. “That’s why I reacted. That’s a smart, smart thing to do from their part. I’ve just got to be smarter and control my emotions the next time.”
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers was quick to shut down Porzingis’ claims that the team provoked him on purpose, saying:
"“It’s funny, I was at one of those meetings and I think someone from the league was saying, ‘You coaches, you try to play games with the refs,’ Rivers said. “I’m like, I’ve never met a coach in my life before the game thinking, Okay, this is what I need to do to get under their skin. No, I think we have some guys who are agitators. I think that’s good. But I can guarantee you that wasn’t on our game plan list. That’s just ridiculous. ‘Okay, let’s get him thrown out.’”"
The Clippers were able to take control with Porzingis out of action.
The Clippers certainly benefitted from Porzingis’ absence in the final stretch of the game. Dallas lead 71-66 at the time of Porzingis’ ejection. From that point, the Clippers would outpace the Mavericks, holding them to 13 points total in the third quarter, an uncharacteristically low number for the high-octane offense.
Porzingis’ ejection was met with some skepticism from current and former NBA stars who thought the referees could have used a bit more discretion in handing out technical fouls.
Whether the technical was warranted or not, the Clippers should be prepared for a fired-up Porzingis in game two of their series later today. The Mavericks kept the game close even without their seven-foot-three-inch second-leading scorer and should come out with something to prove. While Luka Doncic is the unquestioned leader of the team on the floor, his ability to get his teammates involved is one of his strengths as a floor general, and he should be looking to get his big man going early and often today.
The Clippers have shown that Doncic won’t be able to beat them all on his own, but they need to watch out for an all-out team effort from Dallas, including an extra-motivated Porzingis. It still may take the Mavericks shooting the lights out from three-point range to steal a few games from the Clippers. But as losses by the top-seeded Bucks and Lakers have already proven, favorites can’t take anything for granted in the 2020 NBA Playoffs.