Luka Doncic’s breakout sophomore season is the story of the NBA.
But the Los Angeles Clippers might the league’s best team. They looked like it on Tuesday in a smothering performance in Dallas that saw them control the game from the opening tip of a 114-99 win over the Mavericks.
Doncic still filled up the stat sheet. But the Clippers made him work for it as their trademark defense zoned in on the 20-year-old superstar.
Paul George sets the pace
Meanwhile Paul George continued to thrive in his seventh game since joining the Clippers lineup after offseason shoulder surgery, pacing the team with 17 points in the first quarter as Los Angeles opened a 34-27 lead. He hammered home a transition tomahawk dunk late in the quarter as if to announce that his shoulder is just fine.
George finished with 26 points, four rebounds and six steals, but was far from the only Clippers player to thrive. Kawhi Leonard and Lou Williams also posted big numbers as the Clippers three-headed monster on offense continues to look like one of the league’s most formidable.
Leonard tallied 28 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while Williams was his normal productive self off the bench with 21 points, six rebounds and six assists.
Rough sledding for Doncic, Mavericks
But as will likely be the case throughout the season, it was the Clippers defense that made the biggest imprint on Tuesday.
After scoring 137, 143 and 142 points in each of their last three games, the Mavericks managed just 99 against Los Angeles while shooting 38 percent from the field. It was the first time all season they failed to score 100 points.
Doncic tallied 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists, but hit on just 4-of-14 field goal attempts. The Mavericks threatened to close the gap in the second half when backup point guard J.J. Barea got hot en route to 15 points. But there was little else to like about Dallas’ offense against a stifling Clippers defense.
There’s nothing to be worried about in Dallas, which snapped a five-game winning streak with the loss and is well ahead of schedule with an 11-6 start.
But it’s evident the Mavericks ran into the better team on Tuesday.
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