LOS ANGELES — The Mavericks playoff series drought continues. With Sunday’s 126-111 Game 7 loss to the Clippers, the dry spell now is assured of surpassing a decade.
To be precise it’s now been 3,647 days since Dallas defeated Miami in the NBA Finals on June 12, 2011, but all that matters to this Mavericks team is that a season that began with high expectations ended just like last season.
Well, not exactly. Dallas fell in seven games this time, not six. And last year’s loss was in the Disney World bubble, not here in Staples Center. But the series defeat was to the same Clippers team that beat the Mavericks last summer.
Luka Doncic scored 46 points on Sunday, becoming at age 22 the youngest player to score 40 or more points in a Game 7, but the Clippers’ complementary players outplayed Dallas’ on Sunday as finally, for the first time in this series, a team won at home.
The Mavericks seemed to be on the cusp of exerting control, rallying from an eight-point halftime deficit to take their biggest lead, 81-76, on a Kristaps Porzingis jumper with 6:53 left in the third quarter.
Then the bottom fell out.
The Clippers scored the next 12 points and kept their foot on the accelerator, pushing their run to 21-2 and finally 24-4 to end the quarter.
A Clippers team whose biggest lead was six points in Games 1, 2 and 5 here finally had separation and the no-doubt relieved Staples Center crowd exhorted Los Angeles the rest of the way.
The Mavericks no doubt will think back to when they lost control of Game 7, but they’ll carry far greater regrets from this series.
Such as somehow losing after taking a 2-0 series lead with two victories in Staples and leading 30-11 early in Game 3 at the American Airlines Center. Such as still having a chance to close out the series in Game 6 Friday in Dallas, a game in which they led 67-60 midway through the third quarter and 85-84 with seven minutes left.
Such as going 0-3 at home and finding themselves in the seventh Game 7 in franchise history and first since 2014. Sunday’s loss dropped the Mavericks to 4-3 in Game 7s.
Dallas began the season with high aspirations, and Doncic was the preseason NBA MVP favorite, but the Mavericks lost four players to COVID-19 for extended stretches and stumbled to a 9-14 start.
As late as Feb. 7, the Mavericks were 14th in the 15-team Western Conference.
They won 22 of their last 34 games, however, won their first division title since 2010 and entered the playoffs as the West’s No. 5 seed — only to find themselves matched against the same Clippers team that ousted them in last summer’s playoffs in the Disney World bubble.
The Mavericks opened the series with two wins in Staples Center and had 30-11 lead to start Game 3 in American Airlines Center — then the bottom dropped out and the Clippers tied the series at 2-2.