The Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers' first-round matchup has been physical, and things got heated in the fourth quarter of what ended up being a 101-90 win for the Mavs in Game 3. With the Clippers attempting to mount a comeback in the fourth, Russell Westbrook was trying to get chippy and impose his will on the game. Westbrook fouled Luka Doncic as the Mavericks star made his way towards the rim, pulling him aside and causing the Slovenian superstar to spin due to the contact.

Westbrook then took exception to this reaction from Doncic. The Clippers guard quickly burst in frustration, prompting some words from Doncic, and this only served to infuriate Westbrook even further. The 2018 NBA MVP gave a light shove towards the Mavericks star, and that interaction merely served as an invitation for players from both teams to join the skirmish.

PJ Washington, ever the instigator, nudged Russell Westbrook from behind. Westbrook did not take too kindly to this and made his way through the swath of arms just to retaliate. Members of the Clippers staff had to pull Westbrook aside as Washington taunted him with a smile. In the end, Westbrook drew two technical fouls — one for his foul on Doncic, one for his shove on Washington — while Washington's involvement warranted his second technical of the game, leading to both of their ejections.

Frustration has been building up on the Clippers' end for most of the night, and this was merely the culmination of what was yet another disappointing showing from the veteran team. Russell Westbrook, in particular, had plenty of cause for frustration after the Mavericks exposed his weaknesses in a big way.

Russell Westbrook, the ultimate wildcard

Russell Westbrook is a future Hall of Famer, and a surefire first-ballot selection at that. But what he is these days is a limited player whose weaknesses can be exposed in specific circumstances. The Clippers caught flak for benching Westbrook near the end of Game 2, but in Game 3, their reasoning for limiting his minutes became ever so apparent.

When he's on, Westbrook can be such an impactful player for the Clippers. His energy coming off the bench is unmatched; he has become a legitimate defensive irritant, and his ability to help on the glass and push the pace, creating easy buckets in transition in the process, has been a crucial part of what made the Clippers so dangerous in the middle of the season.

But Westbrook, for better or for worse, wears his heart on his sleeve. In a long playoff series where winning the emotional battle can go a long way towards securing your trip to the next round, Westbrook's emotional volatility makes him the ultimate wildcard. In Game 3, Westbrook didn't seem to adapt too well to how tightly the officials called the game, and his early flagrant foul set the tone for what was such a poor night from him.

In the end, before he received an early trip to the locker room via ejection, Russell Westbrook scored a grand total of one point while missing all seven of his attempts from the field. He had plenty of open looks, particularly from beyond the arc, but they simply did not fall. It seemed as though his frustrations with his inability to make shots led to some of his erratic behavior on defense.

For the Clippers to climb back from yet another 2-1 series deficit against the Mavericks, Westbrook has to be more in control of his emotions. He cannot be the Westbrook of old who vowed to “shut that s**t off” against Ricky Rubio back in the 2018 NBA playoffs, only for him to fall prey to foul trouble due to his overt physicality. He has to be the version of himself that's composed — playing with house money seeing as the Mavericks have emerged as the favorite to win the series.

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were no-shows for the Clippers

Kawhi Leonard was the Clippers' saving grace in 2021. If it weren't for him, the Mavericks may have dispatched of them in five games. But this year is different. Leonard has been a husk of himself, thanks in large part to the knee injury that kept him out for 21 days spanning the end of March and the start of Game 2, and he only ended up playing 25 minutes in Game 3 because of it.

Meanwhile, Paul George simply has to be better. He settled for far too many difficult looks, leading to a rough shooting night, and he simply cannot pick up ticky-tack fouls that put his team in such a difficult position. The Clippers went +3 in his 30 minutes (in an 11-point defeat) even though he shot 3-11 from the field.

George will be entering free agency in July. Now, he would most certainly want to earn his next huge contract, and what better way to do so than to channel his 2021 playoff self in another bid to get rid of the Mavericks.