Clippers force overtime but come up short against Mavericks

Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. battles Dallas Mavericks forward Sterling Brown for a rebound.
Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. battles Dallas Mavericks forward Sterling Brown for a rebound in the second quarter at Staples Center on Tuesday.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The matchup between franchises that have met in the postseason’s first round each of the last two years was notable for all the ways it looked so familiar.

After sitting the last three games with a sprained knee and ankle, Dallas Mavericks star guard Luka Doncic again mugged for Staples Center’s courtside seats after step-back three-pointers and improbable jumpers, once again looking just as comfortable in Los Angeles as he does in Dallas.

Doncic and Clippers reserve Terance Mann added yet another confrontation to their charged history together that dates back two years.


And a matchup that produced seven games of drama in the most recent playoffs generated even more: seven ties, 13 lead changes and an improbable 10-point comeback in the final 1:38 of regulation, capped when Clippers star Paul George kept his name in the discussion for NBA most valuable player by sinking a three-pointer from the corner with only a few tenths of a second remaining on the game clock to force overtime.

An arena’s worth of hands went skyward. George turned to those in the first row and slapped hands with anyone within reach before Mann barreled him over with a hug.

It was George’s first three-pointer of the night. It was also the Clippers’ last basket. They missed all seven shots in overtime to lose 112-104 to fall to 10-8.

Paul George had 29 points while Reggie Jackson added 23 and provided a spark late in the first half of a 97-91 victory Sunday over the Dallas Mavericks.

George scored 26 points and Reggie Jackson added 31, his most in 133 career games with the Clippers, but 19 turnovers, the team’s “terrible” offensive spacing, as coach Tyronn Lue described it, and improper execution of double teams on Doncic that left too many open shooters too often contributed to the loss.

“They pretty much picked us apart” off the traps, Lue said, “so I’ll take the blame for that.”

Doncic scored 26 for Dallas (10-7) and didn’t draw another foul after being whistled for his fourth early in the second half. The Mavericks made one of their first 14 three-pointers but finished 12 for 39, a turnaround that fueled a rally from down 11 points. Kristaps Porzingis had 31 points.

For whatever rust Doncic felt in his own return to the court, it took him only six minutes to return to his normal form when he yelled after a basket that Mann was too small to guard him. It drew a technical foul and was the latest tangle between the two since a preseason game when both were rookies in 2019. Mann had precious few opportunities to guard Doncic afterward, though, because of drawing five fouls in 12 minutes and he fouled out in 19 minutes.

Clippers guard Paul George drives on Dallas Mavericks forward Sterling Brown/.
Clippers guard Paul George drives on Dallas Mavericks forward Sterling Brown in the fourth quarter at Staples Center on Tuesday.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Until that George three-pointer, no sight was sweeter for the Clippers than that of starting forward Marcus Morris’ return to the court for the first time since Oct. 23. Morris, who had injured his knee in June’s postseason, said during training camp that he did not require offseason surgery, but he was held out of every preseason game and made three of 11 three-pointers in the season’s first two games, looking nothing like the forward who ranked among the NBA’s most accurate high-volume three-point shooters last season. He sat to gain strength in his knee.

Like the return of Serge Ibaka this month after a prolonged absence because of back surgery, Morris’ reintroduction to the rotation wasn’t seamless. When a Maverick leaped to defend Morris in the corner, Morris put his head down, attacked the rim and drew a foul in the process from contact from Porzingis. But Morris missed the free throw.

Like the rest of the Clippers’ defense attempting to trap Doncic throughout the fourth quarter, he could be a step slow in rotating out to open shooters, such as Dorian Finney-Smith, whose three-pointer put the Mavericks ahead 100-92 with four minutes to play.

Two days after a Clippers player entered the league’s COVID-19 protocols, the team canceled its scheduled shootaround for ‘precautionary reasons.’

Morris’ corner three-pointer with five minutes to play cut Dallas’ lead to 94-92 and he blocked Porzingis at the rim later in the quarter.

“I thought he looked good,” Lue said. “I thought he moved well.”

But Morris’ production was nearly beside the point.

His return would have been a boost at any time but was especially needed two days after Nicolas Batum entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Batum is expected to miss at least a couple of more games.