Kawhi Leonard, Clippers Dominate Luka Doncic, Mavericks in Game 4 to Even Series

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVMay 31, 2021

Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard dunks in the first half in Game 4 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers in Dallas, Sunday, May 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

The Los Angeles Clippers stole home-court advantage back in their Western Conference first-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks, although the road team has won every game to this point.

L.A. continued the trend with a 106-81 victory in Sunday's Game 4 at American Airlines Center. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George led the way for the Clippers, who have won two straight after dropping the opening two at Staples Center.

Solid statistical showings from Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis weren't enough for the Mavericks, who are still looking for their first playoff series victory since their 2011 championship.

Notable Player Stats

  • Kawhi Leonard, F, LAC: 29 PTS, 10 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL, 2 BLK
  • Paul George, G, LAC: 20 PTS, 9 REB, 3 AST
  • Luka Doncic, G, DAL: 19 PTS, 6 AST, 6 REB, 9-of-24 FG
  • Kristaps Porzingis, C, DAL: 18 PTS, 5 REB

Kawhi Leonard, Paul George Dominate for Victorious Clippers

The pressure was firmly on the shoulders of Leonard and George heading into Games 3 and 4 in Dallas after the Clippers dropped the first two contests of the series at home.

After all, the Clippers were already under the spotlight for blowing a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the second round of last season's playoffs despite championship expectations. That they fell behind 2-0 and appeared to be well on their way to a stunning first-round exit this year made the scrutiny even worse.

And they responded.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

PG heating up πŸ”₯ pic.twitter.com/n2IZAIMvxj

LA Clippers @LAClippers

On a string. πŸ‘ŒπŸΎ<br><br>πŸ“Ί @BallySportWest |πŸ“± https://t.co/SxvCDP1Us0 pic.twitter.com/OKcNrAYaUf

LA Clippers @LAClippers

KAWHI TO THE CUP! πŸ’ͺ🏾 pic.twitter.com/uFVU7se1Wt

LA Clippers @LAClippers

Everybody gets a touch.<br><br>πŸ“Ί @BallySportWest |πŸ“± https://t.co/SxvCDP1Us0 pic.twitter.com/SZsCIOLfa1

LA Clippers @LAClippers

PG feelin' it! pic.twitter.com/PMD3B9edV0

LA Clippers @LAClippers

πŸ“Š 10 PTS / 5-5 FG / 4 REB / 2 BLK@kawhileonard setting the tone in the first quarter. pic.twitter.com/sGmA5861qP

After combining for 65 points in Game 3, the two stars immediately set the tone in Sunday's Game 4 as the Clippers jumped out to a commanding lead. Leonard was aggressive from the opening tip and lowered his head on multiple occasions while powering his way to the rim. He also mixed in multiple three-pointers when defenders backed off to prevent those drives.

George quickly found his stroke from deep as well, and they both battled for boards from the wings.

This series may very well come down to the reality that the Clippers have two elite players who can take over at a moment's notice compared to one for the Mavericks. Dallas even had to switch to a zone in the second half in an effort to switch things up and stop Leonard and George from getting whatever they wanted.

Los Angeles still has to make a deep playoff run to escape the ridicule it faced from last year's exit, but winning two in a row in Dallas with its stars controlling play was an excellent start.

Luka's Health, Supporting Cast Struggles Hold Dallas Back

Dallas had more than just the outcome of Sunday's game to worry about on Sunday.

Doncic was questionable coming into the contest because of a cervical strain and appeared to grimace a number of times on the floor when he did play. That didn't stop him from doing what he could to keep the Mavericks within striking distance even when Leonard and George were on fire, although the three-pointers weren't falling.

It was an unfortunate development for Dallas, especially since Porzingis played better after struggling throughout Game 3 on his way to just nine points.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Luka showing his frustrations on the bench 😬 pic.twitter.com/XGx9IwxwsV

Dallas Mavericks @dallasmavs

To the cup πŸ’¨@AcmeBrick | #ALLIN pic.twitter.com/z6NY0yO3Ge

Dallas Mavericks @dallasmavs

IT'S BOBI TIME ⌚#ALLIN pic.twitter.com/2TSialrfqn

Dallas Mavericks @dallasmavs

Let it fly, πŸ¦„ @AcmeBrick | #ALLIN pic.twitter.com/NNJUPZoyYN

The biggest problem outside of Doncic's injury and poor outside shooting (1-of-7 from three-point range) was the supporting cast besides Porzingis. Tim Hardaway Jr. dealt with foul trouble during a disappointing showing, while Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith were invisible on offense for extended stretches.

It reached the point that head coach Rick Carlisle turned to Boban Marjanovic for a spark, and the big man actually provided it for bursts even in defeat.

Ultimately, the Mavericks didn't have anywhere near enough firepower to counter Leonard and George, with Doncic fighting through an injury and three-fifths of its starting lineup struggling for much of the game.

Dallas now has its back against the wall and will need a much better showing across the board to win two of the next three to advance.

What's Next?

The series shifts back to Los Angeles for Wednesday's Game 5.