Kawhi Leonard Propels Clippers to Crucial Game 3 Win over Luka Doncic, Mavs

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIMay 29, 2021

Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) positions for a shot as Dallas Mavericks' Tim Hardaway Jr., center, and Luka Doncic (77) defend in the first half in Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series in Dallas, Friday, May 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Kawhi Leonard scored 36 points and Paul George added 29 more as the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the host Dallas Mavericks 118-108 in Game 3 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series on Friday in American Airlines Center.

Leonard hit 13-of-17 shots, and George drilled 11-of-18 field-goal attempts. The Clippers shot 57.9 percent as a team.

Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic had 44 points on 15-of-28 shooting, nine assists and nine rebounds for the Mavs, who jumped out to leads of 11-0 and 30-11 in the first quarter.

However, the Clippers ended the first quarter on a 20-4 run to cut the Dallas lead to three. Leonard and George eventually combined for 40 points by halftime, when the Clips led 63-61.

The two teams went back-and-forth in the third, but L.A. went on a 15-6 run in the fourth to salt the game away. Marcus Morris Sr. hit a trio of three-pointers during that span.

Dallas now leads L.A. 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.


Notable Performances

Mavericks PG Luka Doncic: 44 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists

Mavericks G Jalen Brunson: 14 points

Mavericks PF Maxi Kleber: 14 points

Clippers F Kawhi Leonard: 36 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks

Clippers F Paul George: 29 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists

Clippers G Reggie Jackson: 16 points, 4 assists


Clippers' Supporting Cast Shines Around Kawhi, PG-13

Leonard and George combined for 63 points on 24-of-35, shooting to power the Clippers' offense, but the complementary players outside L.A.'s star duo proved to be the difference.

The Clips outscored the Mavs by 22 with Rajon Rondo (six points, eight assists) off the bench, and his leadership was evident.

Ohm Youngmisuk @NotoriousOHM

Clippers in a tight game with under five left in the fourth and Rondo is controlling the huddle on the floor before Kawhi shoots free throws. That's just something they did not have last year during their epic meltdown -- they didn't have anyone to gather them on floor and direct

Morris' three-point barrage put the game away:

LA Clippers @LAClippers

Mook in the corner. 👌🏾 pic.twitter.com/vDS76EIfN0

Jackson came through with 16 clutch points, including four three-pointers. His final one was the last nail in the Mavs' coffin and put L.A. up 115-102:

LA Clippers @LAClippers

Big bucket from Reggie.<br><br>📺 @BallySportWest |📱 https://t.co/SxvCDP1Us0 pic.twitter.com/Yt0MyC0QpY

Terance Mann (plus-18) also provided some clutch minutes and one big bucket to put L.A. up 89-84 late in the third:

LA Clippers @LAClippers

T-Mann making it happen. pic.twitter.com/cOdwNa07oS

George and Leonard deserve the bulk of the credit for pulling L.A. back into the game and giving the team a lead going into halftime, but the rest of the rotation took care of business to prevent the Clippers from facing elimination in Game 4.


Luka Magic Reigns, But Rest of Mavs Largely Struggle

Doncic scored 44 points on 15-of-28 shooting. The rest of the team scored 56 points on 23-of-58 shooting.

That pretty much sums up Dallas' evening.

It was not a good night for much of the Mavs' rotation, with Kristaps Porzingis notably scoring just nine points on 3-of-10 shooting.

The 7'3" big man also had just three rebounds in 34 minutes, continuing a concerning postseason trend:

StatMuse @statmuse

Facundo Campazzo (who is 5’11") is averaging 1 more rebound per game than Kristaps Porzingis (who is 7’3") in this playoffs. pic.twitter.com/pRouzV9wRe

Keith Smith @KeithSmithNBA

Kemba Walker (6'0'') had 8 rebounds tonight.<br><br>Kristaps Porzingis (7'3'') had 3 rebounds tonight.

The Mavs are still up a game in this series, though, thanks largely to Luka Magic. That was on full display Friday, with the superstar showing off early:

Dallas Mavericks @dallasmavs



Luka has all 8 PTS to open the game on ESPN! #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/AjhR72WhDh

It looked as though Dallas could run away with this one after a scorching-hot start that featured Doncic pretty much doing whatever he wanted offensively.

However, the Leonard- and George-led Clippers stormed back, with their teammates also coming through.

Doncic still kept Dallas alive, though, with some ridiculous buckets:

Dallas Mavericks @dallasmavs

LUKA MAGIC 🪄#ALLIN pic.twitter.com/ilBflc1SH2

Dallas Mavericks @dallasmavs

AND. ONE. 💪@AcmeBrick | #ALLIN pic.twitter.com/NmCwjzT0ry


Luka fall-away in #PhantomCam!<br><br>He's up to 34 PTS through Q3 on ESPN. #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/58a9Dfv7Yx

By the time the night ended, Doncic earned these statistical accolades:

Brad Townsend @townbrad

Doncic has 22 points. This is the 7th time in his 9 playoff games that he has scored 20 or more points in a half.

ESPN Stats &amp; Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Luka Doncic is the 1st player in NBA history with 275 points, 75 rebounds, 75 assists through 9 career playoff games pic.twitter.com/UZmalcrytU

Doncic had some help in the form of Jalen Brunson, who dropped 14 off the bench and hit two huge threes to keep Dallas in the game.

Dallas Mavericks @dallasmavs

Brunson Burner ♨️#ALLIN pic.twitter.com/7afcoqCIas

Dallas Mavericks @dallasmavs

BIG BUCKET BRUNSON#ALLIN pic.twitter.com/eOfTDN358e

Maxi Kleber and Tim Hardaway Jr. also hit four three-pointers apiece.

But the Mavs as a team simply could not match the Clippers' firepower for four quarters. They also couldn't keep pace with Doncic (plus-three) off the floor (minus-13), leading to their first 2021 playoff loss.


What's Next?

Game 4 will take place on Sunday at 9:30 p.m. ET in Dallas