Kawhi Leonard's 36 Lead Clippers Past Mavs in Game 3 After Luka Doncic's InjuryAugust 22, 2020
The Los Angeles Clippers have retaken the series lead on the Dallas Mavericks, earning a 130-122 Game 3 victory to go up 2-1 in the first-round series.
After Dallas came back to take Game 2, LA squashed any momentum the Mavs gained by pushing them around in what's officially their first "home" contest of the opening round.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined for 47 points in the win, with Leonard pouring in 36.
Kawhi Leonard, SF, Los Angeles Clippers: 36 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, 1 block
Paul George, SG, Los Angeles Clippers: 11 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals
Luka Doncic, SG, Dallas Mavericks: 13 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists
Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Dallas Mavericks: 34 points, 13 rebounds
Luka Leaves Early
Even after a Clippers win, the biggest story on Friday night was the status of Mavs guard Luka Doncic.
The emerging superstar was guarding a drive by Kawhi Leonard when he landed awkwardly on his left ankle late in the second half, sending him straight to the ground and hopping back the locker room moments later. Doncic tried to play through the injury after a short visit with trainers, but he was in visible pain moving around the floor and was declared out for the game only minutes after returning.
A frustrated Doncic went and plopped down on the bench with his team down by double digits and his night over with.
Game 3 had been physical from the start, yet this seemed more like an accident and less like the result of aggression getting the best of either club.
With less than five minutes to play in the first quarter, both Doncic and the Clippers' Montrezl Harrell were handed technical fouls following some jawing after the whistle. Considering the referees ejected Kristaps Porzingis during Game 1 and saw 103 fouls called over the first two games combined, it'd make sense to see officials trying to get an early handle on any potential scuffles that could force a key player off the court.
The reality was much worse. Without Doncic in the lineup, the Mavericks lose their biggest playmaker and the key to their offense. Including the playoffs, Dallas has gone 1-5 against Los Angeles this season.
The Mavs' challenge increases infinitely if their 21-year-old franchise player is unable to go in Game 4.
Paul George Goes Cold
Paul George is officially in a slump and it might be time for the Clippers to worry.
Granted, it's easier to correct these issues coming off a Game 3 victory that gave L.A. a series lead, but that doesn't make the wing's inability to score lately any less concerning.
This was supposed to be the year Kawhi Leonard could share the load after helping carry the Toronto Raptors to a title last season. Instead, things are looking as challenging as they were in 2019.
George scored 27 points on 22 shots in Game 1, 14 points on 17 shots in Game 2 and Game 3 saw his most dismal performance yet with 11 points. For the series, George has made just 17 of 55 field goals including 7-of-29 from three-point range.
It's impossible not to call out this type of showing in the playoffs and it only took until halftime of Game 3 before NBA on TNT's Charles Barkley decided to criticize George.
“He can’t keep getting no pass," Barkley said. "He’s supposed to be a star. When you’re a star you have to do your thing. Paul has got to play better, plain and simple.”
Heading into Game 3, George hadn't averaged fewer than 20 points per game in the playoffs since the 2013 postseason when he guided the Indiana Pacers to the first of back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals.
So far in 2020, George is averaging 17.3 points per game.
The stakes are higher than they were in George's Pacer days. He's no longer the underdog. He's expected to thrive. That hasn't been the case lately, and Barkley made sure to let him know.
"You can’t call yourself 'Playoff P' and lose all the time," Barkley said.
Game 4 between the Mavericks and Clippers is scheduled for Sunday, August 23, at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.