Mavericks' suffocating defense pushes Clippers star to embarrassing record

Dallas Mavericks, James Harden, Maxi Kleber, Luka Doncic
Dallas Mavericks, James Harden, Maxi Kleber, Luka Doncic / Tim Warner/GettyImages

The Dallas Mavericks are on the brink of eliminating the LA Clippers, handily defeating their opponents on the road by 30 points. Dallas' daunting defense was on full display, holding the Clippers to 93 points. More impressively, no one among the opposing players scored more than 15 points.

One of the thorns in the Mavs' flesh in the first four meetings of the series was James Harden, who put up 30.5 points per contest in the Clippers' victories in Games 1 and 4. On Wednesday, though, the former MVP was a non-factor.

Coming into the contest, Mavs coach Jason Kidd revealed his unique plan of stopping Harden. As it turned out, "The Beard" couldn't overcome Dallas' signature defensive pressure. He put up just seven points, shot 2-12 from the field, and had a game-worst plus/minus with a -25.

Mavericks' defense pushes James Harden to embarrassing record

Harden has developed a reputation as one of the most disappointing performers in the postseason, especially when the pressure is high. Before the Thursday tiff between the Mavs and Clippers, he was tied with Clifford Robinson for the most games with fewer than three field goals made and more than 10 shot attempts in an NBA Playoff game. After the Game 5 loss, he now has 10 such contests.

Kidd said that Dallas' defensive playbook is to have his players stay on Harden's hip and prevent him from getting hot from beyond the arc. It worked to perfection because the Clippers star went 1-7 from long distance.

The goal in the next meeting is likely to continue harassing the 10-time All-Star, whose dreadful past performances in elimination matches should bode well for the Mavs. But of course, Dallas cannot rely on Harden being his usual self to end the series at home on Friday. 

Fortunately, the team finally got an efficient scoring night from Luka Doncic, who had concerningly struggled in the first four matchups because of an untimely injury to his knee. He registered 35 points on a 14-26 shooting clip. Hopefully, the Slovenian superstar, who admitted letting Kyrie Irving down recently, has gotten over his mini-slump and can continue his impressive shooting from the floor.

Even so, the Mavs have to be on their toes in Game 6, as the last time they held a 3-2 series lead over LA, they lost the final two games to go home early from the playoffs. As Maxi Kleber said, his squad has to stick to its schemes on both ends of the court to close out the series on Friday.

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