The Los Angeles Clippers secured their spot in the second round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs on Sunday, defeating the Dallas Mavericks 111-97 to wrap up the series in six games. Luka Dončić shined bright, as he had in the previous five games of the series, with a 38-point, nine-rebound, nine-assist performance. But it was not enough as Dončić and the Mavericks have already been ushered out of the bubble in Orlando.
Sunday's game got off to a fiery start, though, after Marcus Morris karate-chopped Dončić on his way to the hoop, received a flagrant 2 foul, and was automatically ejected. Dončić was very unhappy with the way the play transpired, especially in light of the Game 5 incident in which it looks like Morris may have intentionally stepped on Dončić's injured ankle.
He probably did not intend to hurt Dončić with his hard foul yesterday, but Marcus Morris, of all people, does not get the benefit of the doubt considering his history of plays that toe the line between competitive and dirty (to put it kindly). He was ejected as a result, but that kind of foul is what we'd consider a playoff foul under most circumstances. A hard foul, to be sure, but just short of a clear-cut dirty play.
Jay Williams does not endorse the actions of this Morris twin, but he does believe that foul will prove beneficial to Dončić down the road. He explained why on this morning's JWill, Key, and Zubin on ESPN Radio as he put his belief onto the airwaves that this was "exactly" what the Mavericks superstar needed.
Williams says that sometimes you need "something like this" to happen to take your game to the next level, and points to Dončić's difference in response after Morris' questionable play in Game 5 vs. after Game 6. After Game 5, Dončić brushed it off and said he hoped Morris wasn't playing dirty, but he didn't really want to talk to him. After Game 6, he was clearly much more upset and thought it was obvious that Morris was trying to hurt him. For Williams, the series of circumstances was the introduction all great players need to the battle of the playoffs, where the game is as much psychological as it is physical. It will give Dončić different energy, Williams believes, when he returns to the court.
I'd agree with Williams if this happened in, like, Game 1 or something. Dončić isn't exactly your typical NBA sophomore after extensive postseason experience in Europe, but the NBA playoffs are a different animal. Similar to how rookies experience a "Welcome to the league" moment when they realize they're no longer the fastest or strongest guy on the court, first-timers in the playoffs get their welcome moment by virtue of a rough foul or questionable play, just like Morris did to Dončić. Maybe this will be the moment Dončić remembers for the rest of his career as far as how physical the postseason can get.
But it's not like we're going to find out anytime soon, because the Mavs were eliminated. Dončić did what he usually did by putting up a near-triple-double, again. Given the ridiculous numbers Dončić put up in Games 1-5, Morris cannot really be credited for inspiring Dončić to reach another level by hacking the living hell out of him on a layup. Those numbers were all put up largely without the help of Kristaps Porzingis, too. In essence, it is hard to imagine how Dončić could elevate his playoff game more than he did in the bubble, and he couldn't drive Dallas to another unlikely win in Game 6... so exactly why is Morris trying to take off his head the best thing to happen to Dončić?
Dončić averaged 31 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists in his first taste of NBA playoff basketball. I don't think he needed a reminder to keep his head in the game or how difficult the game can get in the postseason. He might have a personal vendetta against a Morris twin now, in which case he'll have to get in line behind dozens of other NBA players with beef to settle with Marcus or Markieff. But getting hammered on a drive in the first quarter of a Game 6, after which Dallas lost and had to go home, is not exactly what Dončić needed. Not at all.