Playoffs 2021

NBA Playoffs 2021: LA Clippers need to find a new answer for Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic

The Dallas Mavericks stole Game 1 on the road from the LA Clippers to kick off their first-round series, placing the pressure on the higher-seeded Clippers to make sure they get one at the Staples Center before heading to Texas.

Ahead of Game 2, it all starts with trying to contain one of the most commanding forces in the NBA today in 21-year-old Luka Doncic, who torched LA with a 31-point, 11-assist, 10-rebound triple-double to lead his team to victory and take a 1-0 series lead.

When you look at the matchup data provided by NBA stats, you might be confused if you didn't catch Game 1.

It shows that a combination of Nicolas Batum and Patrick Beverley were Doncic's primary defenders, but the majority of his shot attempts came against centre Ivica Zubac.

If you connect the dots, that's because the Mavericks were hunting Zubac in pick-and-rolls, trying to get the clunkier big man to switch on to Doncic.

Doncic torched Zubac whenever he got the switch he was looking for, going for 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting from the field and 3-for-6 shooting from 3-point range against the Clippers' big man.

So while Beverley started the game as Doncic's primary matchup, the Clippers were way too free-flowing with their switches, leaving their 7-foot, 240-pound centre on an island with one of the league's craftiest playmakers.

I mean, just look how quickly Doncic's primary defenders were willing to switch instead of fighting over a screen to stay with the most important player on the floor.

And this isn't to say that Zubac didn't do everything he could to stay with Doncic and make life difficult for him, it's just to say that the responsibility shouldn't fall on him as frequently as it did.

Although Beverley is a three-time All-Defensive Team selection and a walking definition of "it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog," he doesn't seem to phase the bigger, 6-foot-7 point guard anymore. There may have been a time where his intensity, trash talking and antics would have rattled a rookie or sophomore version of Doncic, but now, Doncic has learned he can just back Beverley through the basket for easy layups.

LA would be wise to change its gameplan from Game 1 to avoid switching too much, which allowed Doncic pick and choose his matchups and get comfortable.

With two of the best two-way players in the NBA today on its roster in Paul George, a four-time All-Defensive Team selection and recent finalist for Defensive Player of the Year as well as Kawhi Leonard, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, six-time All-Defensive Team selection, one of those stars has to step up to the challenge if the Clippers are going to make the deep postseason run they desire.

Look for George or Leonard to take on the primary matchup of trying to slow down Doncic before it's too late and their team falls in a 2-0 hole heading into a pair of road games that could ultimately decide the first-round series.

The Clippers will get another crack at stopping Doncic and the Mavericks on Tuesday, May 25 at 10:30 p.m. ET.

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