Luka Doncic Triple-Double Leads Mavericks to Game 1 Win vs. Kawhi Leonard, Clippers

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVMay 22, 2021

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, top, celebrates after scoring as Los Angeles Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. looks on during the first half in Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Saturday, May 22, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

The Dallas Mavericks were ready this time.

After losing in Game 1 of the first round last year to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Mavericks seized early control this season with a 113-103 victory in Saturday's showdown at Staples Center. Luka Doncic was brilliant and led the way for Dallas as it stole home-court advantage against a team it won two of three from during the regular season.

Solid showings from Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were not enough for the Clippers, who will look to return to the form they demonstrated when they eliminated the Mavericks last season.


Notable Player Stats

  • Luka Doncic, G, DAL: 31 PTS, 11 AST, 10 REB
  • Tim Hardaway Jr., F, DAL: 21 PTS, 5-of-9 3PT
  • Dorrian Finney-Smith, F, DAL: 18 PTS, 5 REB, 4-of-5 3PT
  • Kawhi Leonard, F, LAC: 26 PTS, 10 REB, 5 AST, 4 STL
  • Paul George, F, LAC: 23 PTS, 6 REB, 5 AST
  • Rajon Rondo, G, LAC: 11 PTS, 4 AST, 4 REB


Luka Doncic Shines as Mavs Steal One on Road

Dallas could be forgiven if it felt like it was the better team in last year's playoff matchup.

After all, it was in control of Game 1 until Kristaps Porzingis was ejected because of a second technical foul and then dropped the final two with the big man sidelined by injury after battling back to tie the series at two apiece. Saturday was an opportunity to prove it is the better side with a clean slate.

The Mavericks wasted no time doing just that by jumping out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter and taking a five-point advantage into intermission with Doncic in absolute control.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Luka’s LOCKED IN 😳<br><br>(via @NBATV)pic.twitter.com/I5G8O0FRtS

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Luka heating up πŸ‘€<br><br>(via @NBATV)pic.twitter.com/n85mBzZY8b

CBS Sports NBA @CBSSportsNBA

Luka whenever he gets to play the Clippers in the playoffs pic.twitter.com/DFIBgy5hct

Ohm Youngmisuk @NotoriousOHM

Luka Doncic is killing the Clippers on switches onto Ivica Zubac. Doncic just buried two shots over Zubac. Ty Lue and Dan Craig gotta switch things up.

Dallas Mavericks @dallasmavs

MAGIC SHOW 😱😱😱#ALLIN pic.twitter.com/A953T9zKZ4

Dallas Mavericks @dallasmavs

THJ is cookin' πŸ‘¨β€πŸ³#ALLIN pic.twitter.com/KU8jgTSB97

Los Angeles had no answers for the two-time All-Star as he drained shots from deep and either scored himself or set up his teammates when he barrelled his way into the lane. Throw in Tim Hardaway Jr. finding his stroke from deep, and Dallas immediately announced itself as a threat.

It was more of the same in the second half as Dallas screened to get Doncic matched up with Ivica Zubac and watched him go to work with off-balance floaters, three-pointers, stepbacks and fadeaways as he unleashed the entire arsenal and forced the Clippers to double him.

Even with Doncic's brilliance, he eventually needed some help with Porzingis shooting an ugly 4-of-13 from the field, and he found it with the outside shooting of Hardaway and Dorian Finney-Smith.

Finney-Smith's three with less than three minutes remaining to answer George's jumper put Dallas ahead for good, and he also assisted on a Porzingis dunk to all but ice it. If multiple members of the supporting cast play well in key moments and Doncic continues to torch the defense, the Clippers will be in trouble.


Late Collapse Costs Clippers Home-Court Advantage

Perhaps no team in the entire NBA was under the spotlight more entering these playoffs than the Clippers after they blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets last season and fell short of a much-anticipated Western Conference Finals clash with the Los Angeles Lakers.

That was especially true for George after his struggles in that series, and it was more of the same in the early going Saturday when he went an ugly 1-of-7 from the field in the first half.

Fortunately for the Clippers, Leonard kept them well within striking distance even during George's initial struggles by aggressively attacking the basket on offense and creating multiple turnovers with his trademark stellar defense.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

KAWHI CAUGHT A BODY 😀<br><br>(via @NBATV)pic.twitter.com/lk1NULCqQe

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Kawhi's face on this poster dunk πŸ˜‚ pic.twitter.com/8bLFyohysP

LA Clippers @LAClippers

Nico and PG for three! πŸ‘ŒπŸΎ<br><br>πŸ“Ί @BallySportWest |πŸ“± https://t.co/SxvCDP1Us0 pic.twitter.com/EFX8Gm8FyD

LA Clippers @LAClippers

Back and forth to the bottom of the net.@RajonRondo 🀝 @kawhileonard pic.twitter.com/SEZoGjJFfJ

LA Clippers @LAClippers

Warfare at the rim! pic.twitter.com/sPlMcJq6Oq

LA Clippers @LAClippers

πŸ”˜ Attack Mode<br><br>πŸ“Ί @BallySportWest |πŸ“± https://t.co/SxvCDP1Us0 pic.twitter.com/2zyqpwEr1l

To George's credit, he bounced back in the second half and impacted the game in other ways by battling for offensive boards and finding others, which helped open up some looks as he ventured into the lane.

George's improved play and continued brilliance from Leonard, including a monster slam over Maxi Kleber in transition, helped the Clippers weather multiple Doncic storms and have a chance heading into the fourth.

That appeared to be enough when George connected on multiple triples and Rajon Rondo lived up to his playoff reputation by hitting from the outside and playing impressive defense. Rondo's free throw with just more than six minutes remaining gave L.A. a three-point lead and seemed to set the stage for a critical win.

And then the home team scored a grand total of five points the rest of the way as the Mavericks forced the ball out of Leonard's hands and the entire team went cold at the most inopportune time.


What's Next?

Game 2 of the series is Tuesday in Los Angeles.