Luka Doncic Triple-Double Leads Mavericks to Game 1 Win vs. Kawhi Leonard, ClippersMay 22, 2021
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.
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.
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.
Game 2 of the series is Tuesday in Los Angeles.