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

By Josh Robbins, Joe Wharton, 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 Doncic led Dallas with his elite playmaking in the first half — finishing with 13 assists — while co-star Kyrie Irving filled American Airlines Arena with his dazzling scoring in the second half with 30 points and five 3-pointers. .

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 elimination game.

Mavericks 114, Clippers 101

Series: 4-2, Mavericks advance

Dallas is riding an elite defense to the next round

The Mavericks are advancing to the conference semifinals for the second time in three seasons. The team has reached this point with an elite defense, and the team is steadily building its roster to create and provide the grit needed to elevate its two stars. In Friday’s Game 6, even when Doncic, the team’s owner, struggled with his shot, Dallas shut it down by showing that defense.

Doncic finished with 28 points on just 9-for-26 shooting. But that’s why Dallas has two stars, and Irving scored 30 to help keep Dallas’ series-clinching win comfortably in hand throughout the second half.

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

Second, Oklahoma City forced the league’s most turnovers in the regular season, while Dallas’ offense had the league’s fourth-lowest rate. Who will win that battle?

Third, Doncic has struggled with his shot all series, and while he’s made up for it with a better defensive effort, he hasn’t been an MVP-caliber player. But surely, at some point, he’ll hit some shots against the Thunder, right? – Tim Cato, Mavericks beat writer

The lineup changes spelled disaster for the Clippers

Both of the Clippers’ wins in the series came with Amir Coffey replacing Kawhi Leonard. The starting spot at forward opposite All-Star George was a wild card in the starting five after Leonard was unable to play well due to a sprained right knee.

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

Tucker has been an underachiever this season with no expectations. 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 are K.J. Martin (played two games), Kobe Brown (rookie), Xavier Moon (two-way contract) and Brandon Boston Jr. (rarely used). The Clippers were 11-17 this season when Tucker played.

But Lue changed the starting lineup before Game 6. He didn’t reveal who pregame, but instead of helping the offense with Norman Powell or the defense with Russell Westbrook, he chose Lou Tucker to score first over George and Harden. .

It is an immediate and predictable disaster. The lack of collective athleticism was evident right away, as the Clippers were killed in offensive rebounding and the battle for possession.

By the time Tucker left for the first time, the Clippers trailed 20-10 with 4:45 left in the first quarter. With Tucker on the bench in the first half, the Clippers were able to tie the game at 52 at halftime. Powell led 19-6 with the starters in the last 6:11 of the second quarter.

But Tucker returned there to start the second half. Dallas took 108 seconds to reel off an 8-0 run in the third quarter, featuring fast breaks and the game’s first 3s for a previously ineffective Donczyk and a previously invisible Irving. Tucker didn’t leave the floor until the 4:25 mark of the third quarter, when the Clippers fell behind 74-63 despite being tied at the half. Dallas outscored the Clippers by 21 points through three quarters in Tucker’s minutes.

Unfortunately for the Clippers, Tucker finished the game with 8 points, 2 rebounds, 3 turnovers and 5 fouls, worse than Irving’s 4-point game. The Clippers didn’t play well enough after halftime with Tucker on the ground or on the floor, but both halves of the early holes destroyed the Clippers and hastened the end of their season. — La Murray, Clippers beat writer

Series: 3-3

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The Magic are making their lineup bigger

With Gary Harris out, Magic coach Jamaal Mosley picked up in Game 6, starting the same big lineup he used to finish Game 5: Jalen Suggs, Frans Wagner, Jonathan Isaac, Paolo Banchero and Wendell Carter Jr.

All but Chuck are at least 6-foot-10.

Why did Mosley choose that group? This put two of his best defenders, Chucks and Isaac, on the ground at the same time. It also kept the Magic’s usual second unit of Cole Anthony, Markelle Fultz, Joe Ingles, Isaac and Mo Wagner intact (because Isaac left midway through the first quarter and returned to start the second). And it helped Mosley not rely on junior Anthony Black or second-year swingman Caleb Houston, who haven’t played meaningful minutes in weeks, to give young players confidence.

Did it work? It can be a mixed bag. Although Orlando “won” the first quarter, outscoring Cleveland 29-25, the same starting lineup was on the floor to open the third quarter as Cleveland went on a 13-2 run.

Defensively, the super tall lineup was certainly a factor in holding the Cavs to 7-of-28 shooting from 3-point range. But the Cavs outscored the Magic 66-38 in the paint.

Mosley made a significant adjustment in the fourth quarter, going with Anthony instead of Isaac for most of the time. Anthony, who had been slumping in the series, played a big role, defending an offensive layup and immediately following to extend Orlando’s lead to 96-91.

One of Mosley’s greatest strengths is his ability to adjust on the fly.

On Friday, it paid off big time.

As Game 7 approaches Sunday, Mosley is sure to continue to trust his gut and adjust on the fly if necessary.

It has carried his team this far.

The Magic are one more win away from reaching the second round. – Josh Robbins, senior NBA writer

The Cavaliers’ non-LeBron playoff drought lives on

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

They came close Friday night, and Donovan Mitchell did his best LeBron impression — 50 points on 36 shots in 42 minutes. Had Cleveland won Game 6 and the series, it would have been a signature performance in Mitchell’s career, regardless of team. With each game, the number of players coach JP Bickerstaff could rely on dwindled, and the tinge of fatigue began to fade — Mitchell’s turnover with 56 seconds left, Cleveland trailing 98-93 in a timeout. A prime example. The turnover was one of eight for Cleveland in the fourth quarter.

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Mitchell and Darius Garland (21 points in 43 minutes) both played the entire fourth quarter and most of the second half. Meanwhile, Carys LeVert did not play after the break. This is not a criticism; Bickerstaff needed to win a game, had a five-point lead in the fourth quarter, and went with the players he felt could bring it home. Mitchell scored all 18 of the Cavs’ points in the final frame.

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Donovan Mitchell leads the Cavaliers to a franchise-changing Game 7 despite the loss

You wouldn’t have imagined Marcus Morris Sr. not just on the floor in crunch time — but at the start of the game. With Jared Allen unable to return to action due to a rib injury, Bickerstaff replaced Isaac Okoro with Morris, who started in that spot in Game 5. The idea is likely to reduce Orlando’s size, but not the extra spacing Cleveland enjoyed in Game 5 Friday.

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

Overall, the Cavs couldn’t make a 3. They shot better than the 7-of-28 they did for Game 6, which could have gone to Boston. Again, Cleveland enjoyed an incredible 66-38 advantage in paint scoring despite a size disadvantage.

After the game, Mitchell and Bickerstaff pointed out the glaring free throw discrepancy in Game 6, when Orlando shot 26 times at the line compared to Cleveland’s 10. Mitchell said that was not the only reason they lost, but his 66 runs. Getting points and 10 free throws in the paint is “crazy.”

Game 7, Five Boy, will soon be upon us. So much is at stake for the Cavs and the people inside that locker room. Futures are on the line. They should sleep on that thought, as well as this one: Mitchell played like the best version of himself, and it just wasn’t enough in a close game.

It’s a heavy thought. — Joe Varden, veteran NBA writer

Required reading

(Photo: (Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)

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