DALLAS -- No one needed to remind the Los Angeles Clippers of where they were in the standings and how important the first game of their four-game trip was.
Players and coaches watched Monday night from their hotel as the Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies lost, giving the Clippers sole possession of the No. 3 seed by mere percentage points. A win Tuesday against the Dallas Mavericks would strengthen that position while a loss would push them back down to the No. 4 seed.
"Everyone is vying for position," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We're no different."
The Clippers' 109-102 overtime loss to the Mavericks on Tuesday night did indeed knock the Clippers back down to the No. 4 seed and just a half game up on Memphis for home court in a possible first-round playoff rematch. The Clippers looked as if they had sealed the win thanks to the late-game heroics of Chris Paul, but not even his best efforts could help the Clippers in overtime.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Paul was a game-time decision Tuesday night because of swelling in his left knee but started the game and was more aggressive early than he usually is. He played all 12 minutes in the first quarter and scored 10 points and dished out two assists. Before the game, Del Negro said if Paul did play he would monitor his minutes closely, but Paul ended up playing 39 minutes, finishing with 33 points, five assists and five rebounds. Time after time in the fourth quarter and overtime, Paul put the Clippers on his back and scored a key bucket or nabbed a key steal. Paul had 12 points and one steal in the fourth quarter and overtime, was the difference maker down the stretch and looked as if he had led the Clippers to a win after his six-footer gave them a 97-95 lead with five seconds left. O.J. Mayo, however, tied the score and the Mavericks would take care of business in overtime. The only downside to Paul's line was his seven turnovers.
Lamar Odom's first game back in Dallas after he and the Mavericks mutually decided to part ways last season went about as expected. The sold-out crowd at American Airlines Center booed Odom every time he touched the ball or was shown on the big screen. In fact, Odom was often shown on the big screen, even if he wasn't in the game, to elicit a response from the crowd. Odom had a decent game by his standards, finishing with six points and six rebounds in 20 minutes, which would have easily passed for one of his better games in Dallas during his forgettable 50-game stint with the Mavericks.
In addition to Odom, the Clippers' bench got contributions from Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes, who combined for 20 points and six assists. Crawford scored eight of his points in the fourth quarter and was heated on the court and in the huddle late in the game as he pleaded with officials for a foul call, eventually getting hit with a technical, one of two the Clippers had in the second half (the other going to Blake Griffin). The Clippers also had one of their better games of the season defending the 3-pointer as the Mavericks shot just 26.1 percent, hitting 6-of-23 shots from beyond the arc. Not that any of that helped in the end as the Clippers lost the first game of their four-game trip.