A lot of basketball has been played since the Clippers and Mavericks faced off in last year’s bubble playoffs, which left plenty of time for the intense animosity the two squads harbored for each other by the end of that series to subside. Yeah, sure, Marcus Morris spent a few games harassing Luka Doncic and may or may not have been trying to intentionally injure the young star, but that was ages ago! Surely everyone was prepared to start this year’s first-round playoff series with a clean slate.
Or maybe not. Sunday’s Game 1 wasn’t even five minutes old when Doncic caught the ball near the elbow, rode Patrick Beverley all the way to the front of the rim, laid the ball in through contact, and then screamed, “You’re too fucking small!” right in Beverley’s face.
NBA players are always informing their opponents about how small they are, but usually this is a message delivered in cheeky, relatively non-confrontational ways. Rocking an imaginary baby, leaning over and holding your had six inches above the floor, simply flexing—these are all tried and true methods for communicating one’s physical superiority. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a player forgo all of the theater and pageantry that suffuses NBA trash talking for venom as pure as the kind Doncic delivered after that play. Watch the replay angle from under the basket a few times, and notice the seething rage that is in Doncic’s eyes as he delivers his lines. It’s one of the meanest things I’ve ever seen!
So was this:
Getting dunked on? That sucks. Getting dunked on and then having to just sit there under the basket while three damn guys stand over you and scream in your face? That is an extra bad time.
Maxi Kleber, the recipient of that rude triple-stare-down, told reporters after the game that it probably should have been called a technical foul, though he didn’t seem all that bent out of shape about it given that the Mavericks won the game. (If there’s one image that neatly sums up the vibe of this Clippers team, it might be two guys, in a losing effort, going out of their way to humiliate an opponent after a play they were not involved in.)
So we’re one game into this series and it has already given us two of the more vicious moments of taunting we’ve seen all year. Given that the bad feelings teams have for each other tend to increase exponentially as a playoff series wears on, it is entirely possible that the Clipper and Mavericks will be doing and saying some truly heinous things to each other by this time next week. Frankly I cannot wait to see where all this goes from here, and I even have a few suggestions:
1. Paul George should dunk on Kristaps Porzingis and then run up to him and pretend to chop him down like a big tree.
2. Luka Doncic should put a gym locker behind the Mavericks bench and then stuff Patrick Beverley into it.
3. Maxi Kleber should spend the whole series calling Marcus Morris “Markieff” and saying stuff like, “Man you are so much better at basketball than your brother.”
4. Rajon Rondo should just continue to be himself.
Now everyone go out there and have some fun.