Early on Thursday evening, two Western Conference playoff teams continued the action inside the NBA's Disney World bubble. And after a closely contested game for much of the way, the Los Angeles Clippers pulled away in the final few minutes for a 126-111 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are the stars for the Clippers, and they played well, combining for 53 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. But they got plenty of help in this game from Ivica Zubac, who put together his best game of the season. Shooting a perfect 10-for-10 from the field, he finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds.
As for the Mavericks, it was the usual story, as Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis led the way. That young duo combined for nearly half of Dallas' points, scoring 59 on an efficient 19-for-40 from the field. But scoring has never been the issue for the Mavericks, and they couldn't defend well enough down the stretch to win this game.
Here are three key takeaways from the game:
1. Playoff implications
Heading into the game, the Clippers and Mavericks were in place to meet each other in the first round of the playoffs, and the result only increased the odds of that happening. Los Angeles moved to 46-22 on the season, which has them all alone in second place, a full game ahead of the Denver Nuggets.
Meanwhile, the Mavericks are all but locked into seventh place after the loss. They're now 41-30 on the season, and can't be caught by the winner of the eighth seed. At the same time, they're now three games back of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets, who are tied for fifth place. With just four seeding games left, it's going to be nearly impossible to make up that ground.
If this was indeed a playoff preview, it certainly didn't disappoint. That would be an entertaining, high-scoring series.
2. Zubac has a career day
Ivica Zubac has been getting extra playing time inside the bubble because of Montrezl Harrell's absence, and he took advantage in a big way on Thursday night. It's hard to overshadow the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, but Zubac pulled it off by shooting a perfect 10-for-10 from the field for a season-high 21 points and 15 rebounds.
This was the 16th time in 68 games that Zubac has not missed a shot, which is just a remarkable feat, and a big reason he's shooting a career-best 60.3 percent from the field. His big day also improved the Clippers' record to 15-4 when he scores in double-figures. While he figures to go back to more of a reduced role when Harrell is ready to play, this performance against the Clippers might make coach Doc Rivers think a bit more about his rotations.
3. Porzingis stays hot inside the bubble
Kristaps Porzingis settled in nicely with the Mavericks in his first season on the court for them, but he's taken his game to a new level inside the bubble. Against the Clippers, he continued that trend, pouring in 30 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out five assists.
Porzingis has now put up 30 points in three out of the Mavericks' four games inside the bubble and is averaging a cool 30.3 points and 10 rebounds per game. The bad news is that the Mavericks haven't been able to turn that production into wins. They're now 1-3 in Orlando, and look to be heading towards a seventh-place finish in the Western Conference.