How will Luka adjust?
Game 5 was the first time all series the Mavericks saw a major adjustment from the Clipper defense.
Throughout the first four games, Luka and the Mavs saw a lot of standard “drop” coverage on their pick-and-rolls. Meaning the guard chases over the screen and the big guy drops back into the paint.
After Luka’s 43 point-13 assist outburst in Game 4, Doc Rivers and co. decided they had to try something different. So, from essentially the opening tip in Game 5, they brought the big guy up on the screen and did a lot of trapping.
Generally, I don’t believe this as an effective strategy against Luka. However the Clippers have a lot of size, length, and physicality to throw at him and this defense appeared to break his rhythm. He scored only 22 points on 6/17 shooting and had more turnovers than assists. A lot of it was Luka just missing shots, but the L.A. defense deserves credit.
ESPN writer and personality Zach Lowe often calls Luka “one of the best problem solvers in the league.” We’ll see what solutions he has come up with Sunday afternoon.
Can the Mavericks defend better?
The Mavericks have defended better in this series than they really have all year. So maybe giving up a franchise-worst 154 points in Game 5 was a regression to the mean, either way one thing is clear: They have to do better.
Being down Porzingis doesn’t help, but there really is no excuse to get torched to that degree. It starts with containing the ball and limiting penetration and concludes with closing out to shooters and securing the rebound.
If the Mavs can get back to basics and do those things, they will give themselves a chance.
How much fight do the Mavericks have left?
It would be easy for the Mavs to check out mentally all things considered. They’re littered with injuries, most notably to their two stars. They’ve got major rotation pieces out, the officiating hasn’t been entirely fair, and they’re staring down the leagues deepest squad. All of this while facing elimination.
I don’t think anyone would be stunned if the Clippers came out and rolled into the second round, but the Mavericks clearly aren’t afraid of this challenge.
The big, bad Clippers have tried to bully them at every turn and were always met with resistance. Whether that be getting physical with Luka, trash talking, or taking cheap shots, it hasn’t mattered to the Mavericks. They’ve stood up for themselves and backed it up with their play.
It’s a toughness they will need to bring with them into Game 6.
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