Heading into their showdown in Dallas Monday night, the Los Angeles Clippers led the Dallas Mavericks by just a game and a half in the Western Conference standings, with the Clippers in the all-important fourth spot that assures a team home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The winner of Monday night's game would be in the driver's seat going forward, not least because they would own the season series, which constitutes the first head-to-head tie-breaker in the standings.
With so much on the line, it was an open question how the Clippers might respond. The Mavericks are the defending NBA champions, a team chock full of veterans -- they've played dozens and dozens of big games over the years. But for Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Randy Foye and several other Clippers, this was literally the first meaningful game in the month of April they had ever played.
Turns out, they did just fine. Foye scored a season-high 28 points on the strength of eight three-pointers, which tied a Clippers' franchise record set in 2004 by Quentin Richardson, and the Clippers dominated the game from wire-to-wire, winning 94-75. Dallas led the game exactly once -- at 2-0. They tied the game for the last time at 11, at which point the Clippers went on a 14-4 run and never looked back. The Mavericks never even got the lead down to single digits for the final 30 minutes of game time.
For whatever reason, the Mavericks were completely discombobulated in this game. It wasn't fatigue -- Dallas was actually coming off two rest days, a rare luxury at this point of this season. It should not have been a lack of urgency -- a win in this game would have put them just a half-game out of fourth place, but instead they drop all the way to sixth. Nonetheless, the Mavericks were aimless Monday night. Perhaps it was the absence of Jason Kidd, out with a strained groin. Perhaps it was a motivated and active Clippers defense. Whatever the reason, the Mavericks shot just 39 percent and were just plain off all night.
The fourth quarter play in which Foye hit his eighth three-pointer epitomized Dallas' night. Sitting back in a zone, the Mavericks were hyper aware of where Foye was -- or at least they should have been, given that he'd already lit them up for seven treys. Foye had the ball beyond the arc at the left angle when Dirk Nowitzki decided he had strayed too far from the basket to defend Foye and decided to hand him off to Delonte West at the top of the zone. Unfortunately West's head was turned and he didn't see Nowitzki's hand off -- the net effect being that the Mavericks defense just walked away from the hottest shooter in America Monday night. A pleasantly bewildered Foye drained his record-tying three ball to stretch the L.A. lead to 18, a frustrated Rick Carlisle called timeout, and the game was over.
In addition to Foye's 28, Blake Griffin had 15 points and 16 rebounds for the Clippers, and former Mav Caron Butler chipped in with 13. Chris Paul had an off shooting night, hitting just 3-12, but handed out 10 assists against just one turnover. The Mavericks were led by Nowitzki with 19; Jason Terry had 15 off the bench. No other Dallas player scored in double figures.
The Clippers will next face the Lakers Wednesday night, in an even bigger game. The Lakers are currently a single game ahead of the Clippers for third place in the Conference, first place in the Pacific Division. The Mavericks now find themselves behind Memphis in the standings, but they'll have a chance to catch them as the Mavs play two of their next three against the Grizzlies.
For all of Monday's NBA box scores, check out SI.com's NBA scoreboard.