Marcus Morris denies trying to hurt Luka Doncic. Five takeaways from Game 5
For every question following the Clippers out of Sunday’s Game 4 loss, there were answers two days later.
Luka Doncic’s defense-rattling precision and late-game heroics? The Mavericks guard often spent Game 5 bottled up along the sidelines by traps, an adjustment made by the Clippers’ defensive coordinators, Rex Kalamian and Tyronn Lue. Doncic watched the fourth quarter entirely from the bench while his team trailed by more than 20 points.
The Clippers’ porous defense? Dallas scored baskets on four of its first five possessions but finished the quarter with just 22 points. The Clippers grabbed 49 rebounds, the Mavericks 31.
Paul George’s anemic shooting? After 21% shooting in his last three games, the Clippers forward shot 66% to become the first player in the NBA’s shot-clock era to score at least 35 points in a postseason game while playing fewer than 25 minutes.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers had to lead the Clippers out of the emotional funk that had trapped them two days earlier with Game 4 and Jacob Blake, columnist Helene Elliott writes.
And the “emotionally weak” attitude coach Doc Rivers observed while his team allowed its 21-point lead to slip away Sunday? The Clippers’ bench was its loudest of the postseason, engaged throughout the night, and especially so as they reeled off an 11-0 run before halftime after Dallas trimmed its deficit from 23 to 16.
Here are five takeaways from a 154-111 victory that gives the Clippers a 3-2 series lead entering Thursday’s Game 6:
1. Doncic lost his left shoe in the third quarter after being stepped on by Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. Morris strongly denied he was trying to hurt the left ankle Doncic injured in Game 3.
“I play this game with a level of respect for myself and other players,” Morris wrote on Twitter after the game. “To think I would try to injure somebody is crazy to me. 10 years going against the best. I stand on morals and hard work. I compete and leave it out there every game.”
In a second tweet, Morris continued: “Basketball has never been that serious to try to hurt somebody. Im not apologizing [ ... ] because I know what I put into this game day in and day out. It was a mistake deal wit it. Competing is why I play.”
Doncic said he “had my own thoughts” about the play.
“I hope it wasn’t intentional,” he said. “Tell me, what do you think? I just hope it wasn’t intentional. Every person is going to have their own thoughts.”
One opinion Doncic made clear he wasn’t interested in hearing, however, was that of his opponent.
“I don’t want to talk to him,” Doncic said. “He’s just saying a lot of bad stuff to me in all the games. I don’t want to talk to him. I’ve just got to move on. Like I said, everybody is going to have their own opinion. I just hope it wasn’t intentional. If that was intentional, that was really bad.”
It was the second time this series that tensions have risen after Morris and Doncic became entangled. In Game 1, the Clipper made contact after the whistle on a Doncic drive. When Doncic took issue, teammate Kristaps Porzingis entered the fray and was subsequently ejected.
An unexpected voice to weigh in Tuesday was former NBA executive Ryan McDonough. Before he was fired as general manager of the Phoenix Suns in 2018, McDonough gave Morris a contract extension with the Suns in 2014. He expressed skepticism about Morris’s intentions through not-so-veiled sarcasm.
2. George’s shooting struggles during the second, third and fourth games of the series became so pronounced that he became a Twitter trending topic. After making four of his 17 shots in Game 2, George posted on Instagram a graphic pushing back on critics, but the response only made him more of a target after his performances lagged in the following games.
Teammate Landry Shamet noted Monday that George, as one of the NBA’s most visible players during the past decade, is no stranger to public criticism. But in a vulnerable moment after his 35-point outburst Tuesday, George acknowledged that the past six days had been personally difficult and that he’d taken the step of speaking with the team’s psychiatrist for relief. He also called himself “indebted” to teammates and coaches who’d stuck with him.
“I underestimated mental health, honestly,” George said. “I had anxiety, a little bit of depression. Just being locked in here. I just wasn’t there. I checked out. Games 2, 3, 4, I felt like I wasn’t there. But shout out to the people that was in my corner, people that gave me the words. They helped big-time about getting me right back in great spirits. Can’t thank them enough.
“… It’s tough. This is really hard being in here. It’s not easy. All day it’s just basketball. It’s hard to get away from it. You see guys on other teams. Shout out to the NBA for creating this environment, but at the same time it’s rough. I just got to find what’s going to get me able to check out of the game and check out of just constantly being in that mode.”
At multiple points this season, Kawhi Leonard has said that the importance of building bonds with teammates is that close-knit teams can talk honestly when things are going wrong on the court in high-stakes situations and not take the criticism as personal. Getting to know George for the past 13 months certainly couldn’t have hurt the Clippers in that regard, and indeed, multiple players said they’d told George to get out of his own head, suggesting he was overthinking his struggles, while reiterating their confidence.
“Us as players, us as brothers, us as teammates just wanted to be there and for him to just get outside of his own head,” center Montrezl Harrell said. “Because like he said, he’s in a bubble. We’re in a bubble. When you go back to your room, there’s no family there. Your wife’s not there. Guys that have girlfriends, they’re not there. Your kids aren’t there. It’s nobody but you and your thoughts.
“… We’re tied together and we’re all locked in and trying to get to one goal. We’re all here and we know that this is all we got. Nobody else is coming into this thing. We’re not waiting for nobody else to come back. This is all we got.”
3. Doncic’s game-winning shot to beat Game 4’s buzzer Sunday reinforced the danger the Slovenian guard poses to defenses when the ball is in his hands, even at just 21 years old.
But one game later, the Clippers offered a reminder of why their defense was one of the toughest for Doncic to crack during the regular season. After each of Doncic’s five turnovers, the Clippers scored on the very next possession – 13 points in all.
Montrezl Harrell recaptured the freedom and confidence that has made his one of the best bench players in the league during the Clippers’ Game 5 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
The Mavericks displayed a mixture of anger and frustration after the game. Coach Rick Carlisle had been ejected in the third quarter, frustrated the Clippers were allowed to challenge a foul call when guard Tim Hardaway Jr. had already been given the ball to shoot a free throw. As the 43-point margin of victory grew, the Clippers celebrated until the very end.
“They’ve been doing a lot of chirping the whole series,” Hardaway said. “So we’ve done a great job coming out on top twice and prevailing twice. We’ve got to focus on doing the same thing on Thursday and bouncing back like we have been doing this whole series.”
4. Clippers guard Reggie Jackson is a divisive figure among fans on social media because of his defensive shortcomings and tendency to force shots, and the frustration is not without its merits. The starting lineup has played more efficiently since he was replaced by Landry Shamet after a Game 2 loss.
But quietly this postseason, Jackson has also been one of the most consistent offensive players — and his contributions have been no small boost given the shooting struggles of George and the absence of Patrick Beverley, a career 39% three-point shooter who has missed the last four games because of a calf strain.
The Clippers and Dallas Mavericks respond to the recent protests surrounding Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha, Wis.
Jackson has made 12 of his 21 three-point attempts and 19 of his 35 field goals overall. Since Game 1, Jackson has made 19 of his last 30 field goals. Jackson has also turned the ball over just twice in five games.
5. In 2020, an advanced statistic exists to explain almost everything that happens on a basketball court.
But how to explain the seemingly magnetic grip Leonard used to rip the ball away from 7-foot-4 Boban Marjanovic?
Wrote rookie guard Terance Mann (who was on the court at the time) on Twitter: “How bro…”
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