Kawhi Leonard, Paul George Help Clippers Hold off Luka Doncic, Mavericks

Blake SchusterAnalyst IIAugust 7, 2020

Los Angeles Clippers' Kawhi Leonard (2) drives around Dallas Mavericks' Trey Burke (32) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)
Ashley Landis/Associated Press

Two days after losing on a Devin Booker buzzer-beater, the Los Angeles Clippers earned some redemption with a 126-111 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in a potential first-round playoff matchup.

The victory keeps the Mavs from gaining ground on the Houston Rockets and the sixth seed in the Western Conference, while Los Angeles extends its lead over the Denver Nuggets for the No. 2 seed. The Los Angeles Lakers clinched the No. 1 seed Monday.

Meanwhile, Dallas has yet to defeat a team above .500 since the restart began in late July. The Mavericks are now 1-3 inside the bubble with four games to play. 

Notable Performers:

Paul George, SG, Los Angeles Clippers: 24 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists

Kawhi Leonard, SF, Los Angeles Clippers: 29 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists

Ivica Zubac, C, Los Angeles Clippers: 21 points, 15 rebounds (10-of-10 shooting)

Luka Doncic, SG, Dallas Mavericks: 29 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds 

Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Dallas Mavericks: 30 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists 

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Kristaps reverse 🔨 https://t.co/kn7i8u9hwI

Clippers Take Battle of the Big Twos 

If Thursday was a preview of a first-round playoff matchup between the Mavericks and Clippers, NBA fans are in for some nonstop, highlight-reel action. 

As much as the Clippers victory was a team effort, Thursday was mostly a battle between Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis against Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

It certainly delivered. 

Dallas' duo offers a unique challenge for Los Angeles with both Porzingis and Doncic capable of pulling noted defenders like Leonard and George out of their position or expose weaknesses in the paint like when Doncic found Porzingis for a dunk late in the second half. 

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Luka finds KP for the slam 😯 https://t.co/dhicwLCg6v

“They’ve got Luka and Porzingis out there who can do it all," Leonard told TNT's Chris Haynes on the court afterward. "Shoot the three, drive to the paint, pass and when you got guys like that on that end and floor spacers with Hardaway, it’s hard to beat that team.” 

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Tim Hardaway Jr. falls into the Mavs bench after making a 3 😂 https://t.co/VaD8cVDO3A

In most cases, Leonard on Doncic is a matchup that LA wants, except Doncic is easily able to take advantage of the situation with his lob partner coming over the top. Without Montrezl Harrell in the bubble, there are few bigs on the Clippers' roster who can move with the agility guarding the Mavs in the paint requires. 

But those mismatches work on the opposite end of the floor, too, with Leonard and George able to use their range and spacing to create open looks that would otherwise pull Dallas' defense away from the paint and give up an easy two—like Ivica Zubac was able to do all night. 

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🗣 HELLO NASTY @FoxSportsWest | @ivicazubac https://t.co/ZbFivwklvN

LA Clippers @LAClippers

Size up, step back, knock down. @FoxSportsWest | @kawhileonard https://t.co/x7FC9XokbT

LA Stays On Top in Race For No. 2 Seed

Thursday's result was much needed for a Clippers team coming off a rather stunning defeat against the Suns. 

The win gave the Clippers a season sweep (3-0) against Dallas and kept them a game ahead of the Nuggets pending their Thursday game against the Portland Trail Blazers. What makes it even sweeter is that the Clippers are still working their way back to full strength.

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KP CAN'T MISS https://t.co/4kr1G0muWF

Lou Williams played just his second game inside the bubble after an extended quarantine and is still getting back into game rhythm. Patrick Beverley missed the contest with a strained left calf, and Harrell has yet to return to Orlando. 

On the latter front, the forward has been with his family mourning the loss of his grandmother. ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk reported August 1 that Clippers coach Doc Rivers told Harrell to take as much time as he needed. Still, the team expects him to rejoin the club at some point this season.

Whenever he does, it'll take time to adjust. With the Clippers hanging onto the No. 2 seed and with four games left before the postseason begins, there's plenty of time to continue ironing out any issues on the floor, especially during victories like Thursday's. 


What's Next

The Mavericks' schedule only gets more difficult with a game against the Milwaukee Bucks up next on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. It's the middle game of a stretch featuring three of the league's top teams with a Monday night matchup against the Utah Jazz serving as the bookend. 

Los Angeles won't get much of a break either with the Portland Trail Blazers up next Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on TNT.