Heading in to the playoffs, we all knew that the Mavericks-Clippers series would be good. Luka Doncic had already put together several masterful performances in the bubble before the postseason began. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard were both ramping up as the Clippers slowly got each of their key pieces back on the floor and acclimated with one another leading into the series. The brightest young star in the league against two players tailored to limit him. Kristaps Porzingis would see his first postseason actions.
In summation, there were storylines galore and great basketball was figured to be played. But somehow, it's even better than anticipated.
While Doncic is awesome and Porzingis is a great running mate (all with mad genius Rick Carlisle on the sideline), the Clippers were assumed favorites for a reason. This Los Angeles team is arguably the deepest team remaining and boast the two best perimeter defenders in the league. Dallas would put on a show, but ultimately the games wouldn't be all that close, as is often the case when a second seed meets a seven seed in the first round.
That has not been the case at all. Game 1 saw two huge swings on both sides and was a deadlocked battle until Porzingis got ejected on a questionable technical foul late in the third. Game 2 was a wire-to-wire victory for Dallas that felt competitve for the duration despite a 13-point difference in the final score. Then came Game 3 last night, where the Mavs lost Doncic in the second half to an ankle sprain but made a push in the final quarter, ultimately coming up short as the Clippers won 130-122.
The basketball has been better than expected, but what's made this series really fun is how chippy it's gotten. It all started with the Porzingis ejection in Game 1 when he stepped in to defend Doncic after he got tangled up with Marcus Morris. The scrappy play continued in Game 2 and really came to a peak in Game 3. Montrezl Harrell and Doncic were both barking at each other all night with some choice words. The only real disappointment in the series has been the absence of Patrick Beverley, king of antagonization among point guards, who missed the last two games with an injury.
This is all fun to watch, but the possibility of a rivalry developing is a basketball fan's dream. George and Leonard aren't going anywhere for the next three years, while Doncic and Porzingis will be running together in Dallas for perhaps the next decade barring anything unforeseen. In all likelihood, this will not be the last time they see each other in the playoffs as contenders. If the rivalry continues to grow, that'll only make it more enjoyable for everybody.
Sadly, we may not be able to enjoy everything the series could offer us after Doncic's ankle sprain. But it could only be the beginning for these two squads. Let us hope we're lucky enough to see this rivalry grow from infancy to a full-blown adult. It would be oh-so-much fun.