The Dallas Mavericks' journey in the 2024 NBA Playoffs did not start the right way, as Luka Doncic and company suffered a 109-97 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on the road on Sunday. The Clippers were missing Kawhi Leonard but still managed to humble the Mavs, who also got an injury scare to one of their starters in the first half when big man Daniel Gafford left the court to tend to an ankle injury he suffered while trying to defend Los Angeles star forward Paul George.

However, Gafford allayed some fears about the severity of his injury after the game when he spoke about his ankle after the game (Via Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News).

Gafford said his ankle injury “is too nothing serious; I'll be fine.” Rolled his ankle trying to defend in transition against Paul George.

Mavericks need more from Daniel Gafford

Dallas Mavericks center Daniel Gafford (21) and Los Angeles Clippers center Mason Plumlee (44) reach for a rebound in the first half of game one of the first round of the 2024 NBA playoffs at Arena.
Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Clippers defeated the Mavericks twice in three meetings back in the 2023-24 NBA regular season, but none of those contests had Gafford on Dallas' roster. All those games happened before the Mavs acquired the center from the Washington Wizards just before the trade deadline, so he was viewed as an X-factor for Dallas heading into the first game of the series versus Los Angeles.

However, Gafford did not do much on the floor, albeit in limited minutes. Gafford scored just three points on 1/4 shooting from the floor and 1/2 from the foul line and had a block in 14 minutes of action. He did not come away with a rebound, an assist, or a steal and was severely outplayed by his Clippers counterpart Ivica Zubac. The Clippers starting center produced a double-double of 20 points and 15 rebounds with an assist, a steal, and a block, while also making 10 of his 17 attempts from the field in 33 minutes.

“I just didn't come out here to play, honestly, Gafford said about his performance in Game 1 (per Grant Afseth). I have to be able to be better in areas that I was always succeeding throughout the regular season. I got to come out and I got to play playoff basketball…”

At the very least, Gafford was aware that his play in the series opener was not up to par.

“In all honesty, there were guys that came out that were ready to play & guys like me that was out there on the floor just running back & forth, Gafford told reporters in the locker room after his forgettable NBA Playoffs debut for the Mavericks (h/t Mike Curtis of Dallas Morning News). “I felt like I couldn’t commit to anything, give anything to the team at the time.”

Gafford isn't the only Mavericks player who has to step up in Game 2. With Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving not getting sufficient help from Dallas' support guys, the need for Gafford and company to improve in Game 2 was clearly underscored by the fact that the non-Luka and non-Kyrie Mavs starters in Game 1 combined for just 14 points. Outside of Doncic scoring 33 points and Irving coming up with 31 points, PJ Washington was the only Dallas player who finished Game 1 with double-digit production in points with 11 markers.

The hope for Gafford and Dallas is that it is going to be a different (and better) story for them in Game 2, which is scheduled to be played on Tuesday at 10 p.m. Eastern Time.