Key to Mavericks beating the Clippers is clear after Game 1

 Apr 21, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward P.J. Washington (25) is
Apr 21, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward P.J. Washington (25) is / Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks came into the playoffs, as one of the hottest teams in the league. The team finished the season winning five of their last seven games. Dallas also finished with a combined 16-6 record during the months of March and April.

The main difference had been the additions of P.J. Washington and Daniel Gafford. Washington became the team's starting power forward, as he helped rejuvenate the Mavs' defense. He averaged 1.9 steals and 1 block in April. Washington had his best game three weeks ago against the Golden State Warriors when he had 32 points, five steals, and two blocks.

Gafford too has been a menace on the defensive end. He averaged 11.2 points per game, 1.9 blocks, and 6.9 rebounds in 29 games with Dallas. Gafford has been a great rim protector for Dallas, as he wasn't afraid to use his body against other scorers.

Role players have to step up for Mavericks to beat Clippers

Dante Exum too became a focal part of the Mavs' rotation, like Washington and Gafford. He became the one guy, who wasn't afraid to shoot the team's final shot. Exum helped Dallas defeat the Sacramento Kings last month when he hit a late 3-pointer. Two days later, he hit a game-tying shot that helped the Mavs beat the Houston Rockets in overtime.

Exum also knocked down 59.3 percent of his attempted 3-pointers last month.

However, many of the Mavs' players like the ones listed above failed to reciprocate their success in Game 1 of the playoffs as they lost 109-97. Everyone, not named Luka Doncic or Kyrie Irving struggled to get anything going.

The Mavericks combined to score 97 points against the LA Clippers on Sunday. Doncic and Irving combined for 64 points, while the rest had 33 points.

Starter Derrick Jones Jr. went 0-4 in 18 minutes of action. The team's field goal leader Gafford also struggled, shooting 1-4 from the field. Washington was the team's third-leading scorer with 11 points. However, he didn't have the best game, as he went 2-7 from the 3-point line.

The Dallas bench also struggled. The Mavs' non-starters combined for 19 points. Tim Hardaway Jr. was the leading scorer off the bench, as he had six points. Maxi Kleber was another player who struggled. He went 0-3 from the 3-point line.

Everyone not named Doncic or Irving will need to step up if Dallas hopes to climb back on Tuesday. For example, look at what the Clippers did without Kawhi Leonard. They had five players score in double-digits. Three of their players dropped 20 or more points.

The Boston Celtics are another prime example of how important role players are. Boston had 74 points from everyone not named Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

This is what separates contenders from non-contenders.

The Dallas Mavericks will need to find that extra third or fourth scorer if they hope to make it far in the playoffs. The Mavs had five players average 10 or more points during the regular season. So, it will be up to the rest of the Dallas squad to provide help for Doncic and Irving.

Once players like Washington and Hardaway Jr. find their shot, it will make things a lot easier for Dallas.

Mavs' fans can only hope things improve in Game 2.

Stay tuned, for all the latest on the Dallas Mavericks and their quest for a second championship.