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Kawhi Leonard Stars with 45 as Clippers Force Game 7 vs. Luka Doncic, Mavs

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJune 5, 2021

AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth

The Los Angeles Clippers aren't done just yet.

Los Angeles preserved its season for at least another game with a 104-97 victory in Friday's Game 6 of its first-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks. Kawhi Leonard, who was brilliant, and Paul George led the way for the Clippers, who will now look to snap the pattern of the road team winning every game in this series in the decisive Game 7.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

KAWHI DROPS 45 TO FORCE GAME 7 πŸ”₯ pic.twitter.com/G1poB2nH8H

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

The Mavericks, Clippers series is the first time in NBA playoff history the road team has won the first 6 games of a series (excluding bubble games last season). pic.twitter.com/zuXkBA7X3F

Notable showings from Luka Doncic and Tim Hardaway Jr. weren't enough for the Mavericks, who are still looking to win their first playoff series since their 2011 championship.


Notable Player Stats

  • Kawhi Leonard, F, LAC: 45 PTS, 6 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL
  • Reggie Jackson, G, LAC: 25 PTS, 9 REB, 4 AST
  • Paul George, G, LAC: 20 PTS, 13 REB, 6 AST, 3 BLK
  • Luka Doncic, G, DAL: 29 PTS, 11 AST, 8 REB, 4 STL
  • Tim Hardaway Jr., G, DAL: 23 PTS

Kawhi Leonard Refuses to Lose With Season on the Line

It's hard to imagine a first-round game with more pressure than what the Clippers faced Friday.

After all, they shifted into championship-or-bust mode last season when they brought in both Leonard and George. They looked to be living up to the hype with a 3-1 lead in the second round against the Denver Nuggets just to lose three straight and flame out before a Western Conference Finals showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers.

That dialed up the scrutiny this season, and a first-round exit against the Mavericks team they defeated in the opening round last season would only make it worse. Throw in Leonard's player option for next season, and the present and future were both hanging in the balance.

Kawhi answered the pressure in dramatic fashion.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

KAWHI. CASH. <br><br>(via @NBATV)pic.twitter.com/NCArQ10SdW

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Kawhi over Porzingis πŸ”¨<br><br>(via @NBATV)pic.twitter.com/NmgjklDxwY

Marc J. Spears @MarcJSpears

Clippers say Kawhi Leonard joins former Buffalo Braves star Bob McAdoo as the only players in franchise history to have multiple 40+ point games in the postseason.

Jamal Murray @BeMore27

Kawhi going crazy lol

DeMar DeRozan @DeMar_DeRozan

πŸ–πŸΎ!!!!!!

Kirk Goldsberry @kirkgoldsberry

Kawhi Leonard in this series: <br>32.8 PPG<br>61% From the field<br>43% From 3-point range<br>88% At the line

While Reggie Jackson was a key secondary scorer in the early going and George played well at the start of the fourth after struggling with his shot, it was Leonard who was unstoppable.

The two-time champion mixed in an array of mid-range jumpers, outside shots, stifling defensive plays and aggressive drives to keep his team afloat even with four total points from the bench and Nicolas Batum and Marcus Morris combining for 10 points.

Then he absolutely took over in crunch time with his patented pull-up jumper and two consecutive step-back threes to push a two-point lead to eight. It was all but over from there and a terrifying reminder to the Mavericks how quickly he can end a game when he is dialed in like that. One more showing like Friday's from Kawhi would be enough to win the series.


Late Collapse Spoils Mavericks' Showing

Friday was a massive opportunity for Doncic.

After all, the 22-year-old has already dazzled during his first three seasons in the league with a Rookie of the Year, two All-Star selections and an unstoppable offensive skill set that includes the ability to hit from the outside, attack the basket and set up teammates. Game 6 was a chance to add a playoff series win to that list.

While he struggled with his outside shot out of the gates, it was still more of the same for Doncic when it came to getting into the lane and facilitating for others. One of those others was Boban Marjanovic, who earned the start and made an immediate impact by scoring against small Clipper lineups and controlling the boards for stretches.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

This Tim Hardaway Jr. bucket was tough 😀<br><br>We got a game<br><br>(via @NBATV)pic.twitter.com/kcP2q54Xzv

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Luka is not fair.<br><br>(via @dallasmavs)pic.twitter.com/jCSTjdTYV8

Dallas Mavericks @dallasmavs

Makin' it RAIN πŸ’¦#ALLIN pic.twitter.com/6FKv43OzQi

Dallas Mavericks @dallasmavs

Tim Hardaway Sr. LOVES what he's seeing 🀩#ALLIN pic.twitter.com/hFldBuSeby

Hardaway also spearheaded a run to retake the lead in the third quarter with a three-pointer and floater while taking advantage of the space created by the attention Doncic drew.

That combination, along with outside shooting from Dorian Finney-Smith, put the Mavericks in position to close out the series at home with a lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Hardaway continued his brilliance and answered a run from the Clippers with another one of his spurts that included a triple, and-1 finish over Leonard and floater. It was the type of support for Doncic that figured to be enough to close out the Clippers.

However, the Mavericks were outscored by 11 in the final quarter and had no answer for Kawhi. Even Doncic couldn't keep up, although it would have helped if Kristaps Porzingis, who is supposed to be the No. 2 option, scored more than seven points as Dallas watched its lead in the game and series slip away.


What's Next?

The series shifts back to Los Angeles for Sunday's Game 7.

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